Turning the Table | KGOU

Turning the Table

Pope John XXIII said such nice things to her. The National Baptist Convention was no less captivated, as were the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a host of black and white bishops and preachers and worshippers worldwide. The King and Queen of Denmark wanted more. So did the Empress of Japan, four U.S. presidents, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, broadcaster Studs Terkel, the City of New Orleans, Ed Sullivan and James Baldwin, among others.

On A Bridge Called Rosetta's Voice

Sep 26, 2019

As a very young child growing up in Detroit I pieced together my own liberation theology. From Sunday School and Vacation Bible School songs and hymns ("Jesus Loves Me This I Know," "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands"). From the Bible text my father quoted far more often than any other (Romans 8:31: "If God be for us, who can be against us?"). From recordings of spirituals my aunt played on the hi-fi in the dark of the early morning (Rosetta Tharpe's "Didn't It Rain" and "This Train").

She Can Make That Guitar Talk

Sep 24, 2019

The country's most distinguished gospel artist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, arrived in Washington, D.C., to perform a sold-out concert. Sister Tharpe spoke to your reporter before her sold-out concert, sitting on her customized tour bus parked outside the venue. The bus — which Sister Thorpe believes is the first of its kind! — is emblazoned with the words SISTER ROSETTA THARPE - DECCA RECORDING ARTIST, painted in a bright and distinctive blue script along the side of the bus.

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Sometimes destiny seems to drop a little hint of goodness you could never imagine coming your way. For Cuban-born Aymée Nuviola and Puerto Rican-born Jeimy Osorio destiny played out to the tune of Celia Cruz.

Aymée Nuviola was a young singer with Pachito Alonso's orchestra when she met the legendary "Queen of Salsa" at a wedding in Mexico. It was a brief encounter that sparked an affinity between the two Afro-Cuban singers who were far from their homeland. Cruz offered up a little career advice and as she was leaving, took off her big, stone earrings and gave them to Nuviola.

Celia Cruz: The Voice Of Experience

Sep 17, 2019

By the time I saw Celia Cruz in concert, she had already released more than 40 albums over the course of a career that spanned nearly half a century and had long established herself as the reigning Queen of Salsa. It was the spring of 1995 at the Aragon Ballroom in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, and the city was just beginning its muddy thaw.

She was 69; I was 24. One of us managed to sing and dance until the early morning hours without a break.

This essay has been excerpted from the forthcoming book Liner Notes For The Revolution: Black Feminist Sound Cultures by Daphne A. Brooks, which will be published by Harvard UP in 2020.

"The greatest woman jazz pianist in captivity." "The greatest woman jazz pianist in the world." "Highly acclaimed as a deluxe tickler of the ivories." "One of the foremost swing pianists of either sex." By 1936, then-25-year-old Mary Lou Williams' reputation already preceded her. The pianist's primary gig — Kansas City band Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy — was taking off, booked for packed dances around the country alongside artists like Louis Armstrong.

As one of the most beloved singers of the 20th century, Ella Fitzgerald was admired around the world. She was also one of the most acclaimed, earning a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master award; a National Medal of Art and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, 14 Grammy Awards and honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Howard Universities.

Ella Fitzgerald In Soulsville

Sep 6, 2019

Ella Fitzgerald often said, "I'm not going to be left behind. If you don't learn new songs, you're lost." The year was 1967 and she was 51 years old. She said more in 1968: "I want to stay with it. And staying with it means communicating with the teenagers. I want them to understand me and like me." Youth was listening to soul, a new keyword in black popular music, whose powerful musical and political currents were converging around 25-year-old Aretha Franklin.

Most people who don't know jazz can probably recognize the name of one of the genre's best singers: Ella Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is one of the eight women at the center of this season of NPR Music's Turning the Tables, and she's arguably one of the most important vocalists not just in jazz but in the entire history of American music. With an exceptional vocal style, supreme technical capabilities and a spirited energy, she was "The First Lady of Song."

The eight women we chose to honor in this season of Turning the Tables were skilled singers, writers, instrumental innovators and musical pioneers. But often in the stories of these women's lives and legacies, their musical skills are obscured by a focus on persona or biography. We also want to highlight their work as musicians and the fundamental musical contributions they made to American popular music.

Nana had a big wooden box of a television in the corner of her apartment along Van Aken Boulevard in Cleveland, Ohio, known as "the Widow's Block." Brick with plenty of sunlight, there were four or five buildings of 100 or so units that housed most of our grandmothers after their husbands passed in the late '60s, '70s and even '80s. Close to the places the elegant women knew – church, grocery, movie theater, drug store, Chinese restaurant and confectionary – they played bridge, hosted dinners and maintained their friendships.

Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Waters And The Colors Of Sound

Sep 4, 2019

There is a widespread tendency to superimpose racial identity on the singing voice and musical genres, and for many years, my own encounters with this left me struggling to understand the sense of alienation I felt when I was accused or celebrated as sounding "white." Throughout adolescence and early adulthood, I was constantly on the lookout for role models who looked and sounded like me. There was always a sense of tension between what people expected of me and the eclecticism of my own vocal style, musical tastes, and sensibilities.

The Voice That Shattered Glass

Sep 3, 2019

It's the stuff of legends: an urban legend and a jazz legend combining into a legendary advertising campaign.

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Listening For Marian Anderson In The Past And Present

Aug 30, 2019

I learned relatively early the importance of paying attention to silence. Long pauses and refusals to answer were forms of evidence at home as well as school. What I didn't hear or wouldn't say was often as laden with meaning as what I was told or said, and it's in part the conversations shared between sound and silence that led me to study music. I came to the decision honestly, though not easily. As a college student I struggled to commit to the major, delaying my declaration on multiple occasions because I rarely saw or heard anyone who looked or sounded like me in my music classes.

"When will we listen to black women?"

As one of the 20th century's most venerated vocalists, Marian Anderson performed in stately concert halls and grand opera houses around the globe. But the site of her best-remembered concert was a wooden platform erected on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On April 9, 1939 — a chilly Easter Sunday afternoon — Anderson performed there, after she was barred from singing at Washington, D.C. venues that enforced "whites-only" policies.