The Life You Give: Simon Estes *March 2 1938

One of just a few African-American male singers who has had a top-rank international operatic career, bass-baritone Simon Estes grew up in Iowa in a house without heat or indoor plumbing. He sang in church as a youth, but when he enrolled at the University of Iowa in the late '50s he had never heard… Continue reading The Life You Give: Simon Estes *March 2 1938

The Virtuous Black XXVIII: Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman, born Jessye Mae Norman, on September 15 1945 in Augusta, Georgia, U.S.A., was operatic soprano, one of the finest of her day, who also enjoyed a successful concert career.After winning the Bavarian Radio Corp. International Music Competition in 1968, Norman made her operatic debut as Elisabeth in Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser in 1969 in… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XXVIII: Jessye Norman

The Life You Give / Virtuous Black XXVII — Marian Anderson *1897

Marian Anderson, born on February 27 1897, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., was one of the finest contraltos of her time.Anderson displayed vocal talent as a child, but her family could not afford to pay for formal training. From the age of six, she was tutored in the choir of the Union Baptist Church, where she… Continue reading The Life You Give / Virtuous Black XXVII — Marian Anderson *1897

The Virtuous Black XXVI: Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald, born Ella Jane Fitzgerald, on April 25 1917 in Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A., is the jazz singer who became world famous for the wide range and rare sweetness of her voice. She became an international legend during a career that spanned some six decades. As a child, Fitzgerald wanted to be a dancer,… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XXVI: Ella Fitzgerald

The Virtuous Black XXV: Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, born August 4 1901, in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., was leading trumpeter and one of the most influential artists in jazz history. He grew up in dire poverty in New Orleans, Louisiana, when jazz was very young. As a child he worked at odd jobs and sang in a boys’ quartet. In 1913… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XXV: Louis Armstrong

The Virtuous Black XXIII: Wynton Marsalis

The most famous musician in contemporary jazz, Wynton Marsalis had a major impact almost from the start. In the early '80s, it was major news that a young and talented Black musician would choose to make a living playing acoustic jazz rather than fusion, funk, or R&B. Marsalis' arrival on the scene started the "Young… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XXIII: Wynton Marsalis

The Virtuous Black XXII: Shirley Verrett

Shirley Verrett (accent on the last syllable, VerrETT) was one of America's finest opera stars and recital singers, and was one of the remarkable generation of great African-American singers who came to international prominence in the 1950s and 1960s.She studied voice in Los Angeles with Anna Fitziu and Hall Johnson. In 1955, she won the… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XXII: Shirley Verrett

The Virtuous Black XXI: Nina Simone

Nina Simone, born Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, U.S.A., is the singer who created urgent emotional intensity by singing songs of love, protest, and Black empowerment in a dramatic style, with a rough-edged voice.A precocious child, Simone played piano and organ in girlhood. She became sensitive to racism when at… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XXI: Nina Simone

The Virtuous Black XX: Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk, born Thelonious Sphere Monk, on October 10 1917, in Rocky Mount, N.C., U.S.A., is the pianist and composer who was among the first creators of modern jazz.As the pianist in the band at Minton’s Playhouse, a nightclub in New York City, in the early 1940s, Monk had great influence on the other musicians… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XX: Thelonious Monk

The Virtuous Black XIX: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday, born Elinore Harris on April 7 1915, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., was one the greatest jazz singers from the 1930s to the ’50s.Eleanora (her preferred spelling) Harris was the daughter of Clarence Holiday, a professional musician who for a time played guitar with the Fletcher Henderson band. She and her mother used her… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XIX: Billie Holiday

The Virtuous Black XVIII & The Live You Give: Toni Morrison *1931

Toni Morrison, born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, U.S.A., was the writer noted for her examination of Black experience (particularly Black female experience) within the Black community. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.Morrison grew up in the American Midwest in a family that possessed an intense love… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XVIII & The Live You Give: Toni Morrison *1931

The Virtuous Black XVII: James Baldwin

James Baldwin, born James Arthur Baldwin on August 2 1924 in New York, New York, is the essayist, novelist, and playwright whose eloquence and passion on the subject of race in America made him an important voice, particularly in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in the United States and, later, through much of western… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XVII: James Baldwin

The Virtuous Black XVI: Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia Jackson, born October 26 1911, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., was the gospel music singer, known as the “Queen of Gospel Song.”Jackson was brought up in a strict religious atmosphere. Her father’s family included several entertainers, but she was forced to confine her own musical activities to singing in the church choir and listening—surreptitiously—to recordings… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XVI: Mahalia Jackson

The Virtuous Black XV: William Grant Still

William Grant Still, born May 11 1895, in Woodville, Mississippi, U.S.A., was composer and conductor, and the first African American to conduct a professional symphony orchestra in the United States. Though a prolific composer of operas, ballets, symphonies, and other works, he was best known for his Afro-American Symphony (1931). Still was brought up by… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XV: William Grant Still

The Virtuous Black XIV: Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington, born Edward Kennedy Ellington, April 29 1899, in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., is the pianist who was the greatest jazz composer and bandleader of his time. One of the originators of big-band jazz, Ellington led his band for more than half a century, composed thousands of scores, and created one of the most distinctive… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XIV: Duke Ellington

The Virtuous Black XIII: Prince

Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, on June 7 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A., is the singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer, dancer, and performer on keyboards, drums, and bass who was among the most talented American musicians of his generation. Like Stevie Wonder, he was a rare composer who could perform at a professional level on virtually… Continue reading The Virtuous Black XIII: Prince

Nelson Mandela — April 20 1964 / The Rivonia Trial

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Hendry Mphakanyiswa of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela himself was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand where he studied law. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against… Continue reading Nelson Mandela — April 20 1964 / The Rivonia Trial

The Life You Give: Nat King Cole *1919

Nat King Cole, born Nathaniel Adams Cole, on March 17 1919, in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.A., is the musician hailed as one of the best and most influential pianists and small-group leaders of the swing era. Cole attained his greatest commercial success, however, as a vocalist specializing in warm ballads and light swing.Cole grew up in… Continue reading The Life You Give: Nat King Cole *1919

The Life You Give: Leontyne Price *1927, and The Virtuous Black X

Leontyne Price: A Legendary Met CareerMetropolitan Opera audiences began an extraordinary love affair with American soprano Leontyne Price immediately upon her debut on January 27, 1961. She was by then an internationally heralded singer and an experienced, refined musician and artist. But more than anything, it was the sheer beauty of her voice that excited… Continue reading The Life You Give: Leontyne Price *1927, and The Virtuous Black X

The Virtuous Black IX: Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson on April 4 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., is the poet, memoirist, and actress whose several volumes of autobiography explore the themes of economic, racial, and sexual oppression.Although born in St. Louis, Angelou spent much of her childhood in the care of her paternal grandmother in rural Stamps,… Continue reading The Virtuous Black IX: Maya Angelou

The Virtuous Black VIII: Miles Davis

Miles Davis, born Miles Dewey Davis III on May 26 1926, in Alton, Illinois, U.S.A., is the jazz musician, and great trumpeter who as a bandleader and composer was one of the major influences on the art from the late 1940s.Davis grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, where his father was a prosperous dental… Continue reading The Virtuous Black VIII: Miles Davis