Ethel Waters Ethel Waters

Vocalist and actress Ethel Waters was a key figure in the development of African American culture between the two World Wars. She broke barrier after barrier, becoming the first black woman heard on the radio, the first black singer to perform on television, the first African American to perform in an integrated cast on Broadway, and the first black woman to perform in a lead dramatic role on Broadway.

As a singer Waters introduced over 50 songs that became hits, including standards of the magnitude of “St. Louis Blues” and “Stormy Weather.” Her jazzy yet controlled vocal style influenced a generation of vocalists, black and white, and her career, encompassing stage, song, and screen, flowered several times in comebacks after tumbling to low points.

Born October 31, 1896, in Chester, Pennsylvania, she had to overcome the squalor of her sordid childhood and early struggles. Her singing career began with amateur night performances in Philadelphia, and then slowly moved in the black theater circuit, where she was billed as “Sweet Mama Stringbean.”

She began recording in 1921 for the Black Swan label, continuing with that company through 1924. When she introduced “Dinah” at the famous Plantation Club (Broadway and 50th Street) in New York City in 1925, she met with such success that she was signed by Columbia Records, for whom she was to make many of her most famous recordings during the next decade. Her career continued to escalate in such black shows as ‘Africana,’ ‘The Blackbirds of 1928’ (and 1930) and ‘Rhapsody in Black.’ In 1929, she made her film debut in the new talking films, singing “Am I Blue?” and “Birmingham Bertha” in ‘On with the Show,’ remade a few years later as ‘Forty-Second Street.’

Read more

Tags

Album Review
Read more articles

Photos

Albums

Album Am I Blue 1921-1947 by Ethel Waters

Am I Blue 1921-1947

Jazz Legends
2004

buy
Album The Best Of Ethel Waters by Ethel Waters

The Best Of Ethel...

Columbia Records
2003

buy
 

Diva

Cantaloupe Music
2003

buy
 

Complete Decca Records

Cantaloupe Music
1989

buy
 

Ethel Waters'...

Cantaloupe Music
1972

buy
 

Jazzin' Babies' Blues...

Cantaloupe Music
1971

buy

Similar Jazz Musicians

Billie Holiday Billie Holiday
voice / vocals
Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald
voice / vocals
Lena Horne Lena Horne
voice / vocals
Bessie Smith Bessie Smith
voice / vocals
Artie Shaw Artie Shaw
clarinet
Rosemary Clooney Rosemary Clooney
voice / vocals
Anita O'Day Anita O'Day
voice / vocals
Alberta Hunter Alberta Hunter
voice / vocals
Ma Rainey Ma Rainey
voice / vocals
Maxine Sullivan Maxine Sullivan
voice / vocals
Lee Wiley Lee Wiley
voice / vocals
Ivie Anderson Ivie Anderson
voice / vocals
Josephine Baker Josephine Baker
voice / vocals
Annette Hanshaw Annette Hanshaw
voice / vocals
Helen Humes Helen Humes
voice / vocals

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.


MUSICSTACK

Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers

AMAZON

CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more

HD TRACKS

Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads

CD UNIVERSE

Specializing in music, movies and video games

REVERB

Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear