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Ethel Waters

anothermag.com

Negroland Author Margo Jefferson on Jazz Singer Ethel Waters

This article is taken from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of AnOther Magazine:. “Ethel Waters was one of the first Black women to embrace white musical traditions like operetta and vaudeville while keeping a grounding in blues. The main thing about this song from 1932 is its fearlessness. Three years earlier, Louis Armstrong did a groundbreaking recording of it – but Ethel always wanted to top her predecessor. She would incorporate perfect mimicry of her peers in her songs, so you would get a form of criticism along with these enchanting performances. In the first chorus, where her voice is high and light, she is being read as a charming white heroine. In the second chorus, she lowers her voice and sings in drag as Louis Armstrong. So at a time when race-mixing was verboten, you’ve got what seems to be a white woman singing with quite a rakish Black man. It’s a little social, theatrical comedy. Ethel had lesbian relationships, so you can also read this song as being played by a femme and a butch. She showed what could be laughed at and what you could be thrilled by.”
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brproud.com

Ethel Waters: The first Black singer on television

(BRPROUD) — At 13, Ethel Waters couldn’t have known that life would take her on a whirlwind journey through the entertainment industry as a singer and actress. She was born on October 31, 1896, in Chester, Pennsylvania, growing up in poverty before marrying at the age of 12. Her American blues, jazz singing entertainment career began at 13 years old when she sang in public for the first time in a local nightclub. By 17, she began billing herself “Sweet Mama Stringbean.”
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