Francis Albert Sinatra [was born] in Hoboken, New Jersey. Although his mother had hoped that he would be the first person in the family to attend college and was disappointed that he did not finish high school, she encouraged his ambition to be a singer. His father, on the other hand, was opposed and insisted that he should find a job. The young Sinatra worked briefly as a truck driver for a newspaper, a riveter in a Hoboken shipyard, and a fruit hauler. By 1932, he had decided that he wanted to be a professional singer.
His break came in 1937, when he and three instrumentalists, billed as the Hoboken Four, won on the Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. After some touring, the group disbanded. Harry James signed Sinatra to sing with his orchestra, and on July 13, 1939, two weeks after his debut as a big-band vocalist at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, Sinatra cut his first disc, “From the Bottom of My Heart,” with the orchestra.
James graciously freed Sinatra from his contract when the singer received a more lucrative offer from bandleader Tommy Dorsey in December 1939. By 1942 Sinatra’s fame had eclipsed that of Dorsey, and the singer yearned for a solo career.
Between 1943 and 1946, Sinatra’s solo career blossomed as the singer charted a slew of hit singles. Sinatra made his movie acting debut in 1943. In 1945, he won a special Academy Award for The House I Live In, a 10-minute short made to promote racial and religious tolerance on the home front. Sinatra’s popularity began to slide in the postwar years (but) in 1953, he made a triumphant comeback, winning a supporting actor Oscar for From Here to Eternity.
In the mid-’70s Sinatra’s career slowed down, but in mid-1980, after a five-year recording hiatus, he released Trilogy which included a version of “Theme From New York, New York” that the city fervently adopted. In 1985, he was accorded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Frank Sinatra died of a heart attack on May 14, 1998, in L.A.
Baker, Josephine (3 June 1906-12 Apr. 1975), dancer, singer, and civil rights activist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Eddie Carson, a musician, and Carrie Macdonald. Her parents parted when Josephine was still an infant, and her mother married Arthur Martin, which has led to some confusion about her maiden name. Very little is known about her childhood, except that she was a witness to the East St. Louis riot in 1917.
Josephine Baker…began her career in “tent shows,” touring musical ensembles that played mostly in the southern states. Her first success was as a comic dancer in a show…Her Broadway debut was in The Chocolate Dandies at the Colonial Theatre in September 1924…
Subsequent appearances in New York City…led to Baker’s engagement as one of the featured performers in La Revue Nègre, an all-black show…La Revue Nègre was destined to become one of the key influences in Parisian theater and visual arts in the late 1920s.
Speech at the March on Washington~ http://www.blackpast.org/1963-josephine-baker-speech-march-washington
FBI files~ http://vault.fbi.gov/josephine-baker
Born in Chicago, Illinois in the United States, into a large, impoverished family of immigrants. Goodman experienced hard times while growing up. Encouraged by his father to learn a musical instrument, Goodman and two of his brothers took lessons; as the youngest and smallest he learned to play the clarinet. These early studies took place at the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue and later at Hull House, a settlement house founded by reformer Jane Addams. From the start, Goodman displayed an exceptional talent and he received personal tuition from James Sylvester and then the renowned classicist Franz Schoepp. Before he was in his teens, Goodman had begun performing in public and was soon playing in bands with such emerging jazz artists as Jimmy McPartland, Frank Teschemacher and Dave Tough. Goodman’s precocious talent allowed him to become a member of the American Federation of Musicians at the age of 14 and that same year he played with Bix Beiderbecke. By his mid-teens Goodman was already established as a leading musician, working on numerous engagements with many bands to the detriment of his formal education.
The summer of 1932 saw Benny organise his first band which starred singer Russ Columbo. The second band that he formed (in 1934) got a job at Billy Rose’s Music Hall. This band made some great recordings and began appearing on the 3-hour NBC radio program called “Let’s Dance.”
After this, the Benny Goodman Orchestra began touring (with not so fantastic results) until August 21, 1935, when the Benny Goodman Orchestra opened in the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. After playing a few dance tunes, he told the band to play some Fletcher Henderson arrangements. The mostly young crowd promptly started something of a riot. After this public approval of the music – this thing called “Swing” – there was no looking back!
Benny did for clarinet what Louis Armstrong had done for the trumpet. He gave it a newly assertive leadership role in the jazz ensemble.
His was the most popular and influential swing band of the 1930s and ‘40s, and his unique trios, quartets and sextets shaped small-band Jazz style. Before Benny, clarinet was rarely a lead instrument for a band. His success made it the most popular instrument for other bandleaders like Artie Shaw, Jimmy Dorsey and Woody Herman.
Benny Goodman Discography: http://www.discogs.com/artist/254768-Benny-Goodman
“The Hot Mikado,” starring Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, was a big Broadway hit. It was noted for its wild costuming and all black cast. It ran at the Broadhurst Theater, in Manhattan, from March 23 to June 3, 1939.
Producer Mike Todd announced he was moving the show to the New York World’s Fair. The show became one of the biggest hits at the fair and opened at the Hall of Music on June 22, 1939.
Silent movie film footage of the Michael Todd production at the New York World’s Fair 1939-1940:
Erskine Hawkins Orchestra – Two Selections from “Hot Mikado”~
The New York Public Library Digital Collections: “Hot Mikado”~
Ovrtur database for “Hot Mikado”~ http://www.ovrtur.com/production/2880750#pagetop
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson~ http://atdf.org/awards/bojangles.html
Billie Holiday was the pre-eminent jazz singer of her day and among the most revered vocalists of the century. Although her brief life was fraught with tragedy, Holiday left a transcendent legacy of recorded work. Her pearly voice, exquisite phrasing and tough-tender persona influenced the likes of Janis Joplin and Diana Ross, among others. She performed and recorded in a jazzy “swing-sing” style from 1933 to 1958 with pianist-bandleaders Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and others. She was closely associated with tenor saxophonist Lester “Prez” Young, who dubbed her “Lady Day.”
There are varying accounts of her birth: in her memoirs, Holiday claimed she was born in Baltimore; but biographer Donald Clarke notes the time of birth, name of the doctor, and original spelling of her name on her birth certificate dated April 7, 1915 from Philadelphia General Hospital, in Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon. As a teenager, she began singing along with records by such artists as Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong in after-hours clubs in Baltimore. Her mother, Sadie Fagan, decided to move to New York, and Billie followed her. She began performing in nightclubs in Harlem, and she took the stage name Billie Holiday after film star Billie Dove. In 1933, when she was 18, she was discovered performing in a Harlem club called Monette’s by Columbia A&R man John Hammond. Her first commercial recording session occurred that November.
Strange Fruit: the first great protest song~ http://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/feb/16/protest-songs-billie-holiday-strange-fruit
New York Times obituary~ http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0407.html
Looking For Lady Day’s Resting Place? Detour Ahead~ http://www.npr.org/2012/07/17/156686608/looking-for-lady-days-resting-place-detour-ahead
For more Billie Holiday links see 2015’s post~ https://schristywolfe.com/2015/04/07/billie-holiday-born-on-april-7-1915/