April marked Jazz Appreciation Month. Take a listen back to five jazz singers whose music spread across the world.
1. Billie Holiday
She was known as Lady May. Holiday is also known for her beautiful raspy voice that made her stand out from other singers. The single, Strange Fruit became the biggest hit of her career and was covered by fellow singer Nina Simone – but she changed the song title to Blood On The Leaves. Eventually, her life and legacy still remain alive when it was turned into a book and movie called Lady Sings The Blues that starred Diana Ross.
2. Frank Sinatra
He is known as Ol’ Blue Eyes. Born in Hoboken, NJ to Italian immigrants. Sinatra became friends with former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, fellow singer Nat King Cole and many others. He was the first singer ever to have a Las Vegas residency and he one of the biggest groups of all time, The Rat Pack, which also included fellow singers Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. His single, “New York, New York” became the biggest hit of his career and it also became the official anthem of New York.
3. Duke Ellington
He started his career during the Harlem Renaissance era at The Cotton Club in Harlem, NY. Ellington is known for his orchestra and made history as the first African American to have his own orchestra. He won 14 Grammy Awards and influenced fellow singers like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and many others. Stevie Wonder dedicated a song to Ellington called, “Sir Duke” off his album, Songs In The Key Of Life. The musical Sophisticated Ladies is based on the music of Ellington and featured Phyllis Hyman and won two Tony Awards.
4. Tony Bennett
He grew up in Astoria, Queens, NY and started to sing around the Great Depression era. Bennett is often compared to fellow singer Frank Sinatra, but they collaborated together on many songs. Throughout his career, Bennett has won 20 Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He also have a hidden talent by painting portraits and it became a success. He is known for the singles, “Rags To Riches” and “Because Of You.” During the 2010’s, Bennett collaborated with singer Lady Gaga on their duet album, Cheek to Cheek – which earned them a Grammy Award for Best Pop Album. He has worked with fellow singers such as Amy Winehouse, Stevie Wonder and K.D. Lang.
5. Nancy Wilson
This Ohio native definitely made a name for herself in the jazz world as she also transitioned into acting. Wilson’s debut single, “Guess Who I Saw Today” was one of her many successful songs throughout her career. She was one of many African American jazz singers that had her own variety show on NBC, The Nancy Wilson Show, that only lasted for one season. Wilson has made tv/film appearances on The Parkers, Room 222, The Cosby Show, New York Undercover, and many more. Sadly, she passed away at the age of 81 and lived a full life.