african american vocalist

 Those rappers are caught in a trick bag, because it’s a way to make unconscionable sums of money and a way to absent yourself from any sense of moral responsibility
Harry Belafonte

Ces rappeurs sont pris dans un piège, c'est une façon de se faire énormément d'argent et de se désolidariser de toute responsabilité morale
Harry Belafonte 

Kay Davis, circa 1945

Kay Davis (5 December 1920 – 27 January 2012) was a classically trained coloratura soprano who majored in voice and piano at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA, one of only six African American students there at the time. She joined Duke Ellington’s orchestra as a vocalist in 1944 and appeared with them in a number of (short) films, amongst which Symphony in Swing (1949) and Salute to Duke Ellington (1950).

During a concert in Carnegie Hall on November 13, 1948, Kay Davis was the first person ever to sing, for an audience, the legendary melancholy jazz ballad Lush Life, though the song had already been written more than a decade earlier by Ellington’s musical arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn when he was only 16 years old.

Although she did sing conventional jazz songs with lyrics in a non-operatic style, she’s best known for weaving haunting wordless soprano tones through elaborate, sometimes filmlike Ellington arrangements. Jazz scholar Richard A. Wang, associate professor emeritus of music at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said of Ms. Davis’ singing: “She had a purity of tone and accuracy of intonation that added another instrumental voice to the Ellington palette. If one made a classical reference, it would be the sounds in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise – also a wordless vocal.”

In the early 1950s, after two European tours with Ellington, Davis got married and retired from singing. She and her husband moved to Florida, where she became a trained Cordon Bleu cook and had one son. Kay Davis’ best known recordings with Duke Ellington are the wordless vocal numbers Transblucency, On A Turquoise Cloud, Minnehaha, and Violet Blue.

serafino-finasero – 20160315 – [more Ellington singers here]

Kay Davis and Duke Ellington, late 1940s | photo William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress


Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston attend the United Negro College Fund’s 46th Annual Awards Dinner on March 8, 1990 in New York.

Whitney Houston was presented with the UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Award for her support of black colleges. She raised a quarter of a million dollars at a benefit concert for the UNCF and had participated in many UNCF programs.


Whitney Houston and Apollonia Kotero at the 13th Annual American Music Awards at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on January 27, 1986.

Whitney won Favorite Soul/R&B Single for “You Give Good Love” and Favorite Soul/R&B for “Saving All My Love for You.”


Singer Andrea Davis (Minnie Riperton) publicity portraits for Chess Records, 1967.

Minnie Riperton possessed a five-octave vocal range, enabling her to sing in whistle register, famously demonstrated on her 1975 hit single “Lovin’ You”. Born in Chicago, she received operatic vocal training from Marion Jeffery. Under the alias Andrea Davis she recorded local hit “Lonely Girl” in 1966. Before embarking on a solo career, she joined the group Rotary Connection. In 1973, she began working with Wonderlove, Stevie Wonder’s backing group. A year later he producing her Perfect Angel album, and contributed two original compositions. “Loving You”, written by Minnie and her husband Richard Rudolph, brought her international success, reaching the U.S. #1 spot and the U.K. #2 chart position in 1975. In January 1976, Minnie was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. The next year she became chairman of the American Cancer Society. In 1978, she received the American Cancer Society’s Courage Award presented to her at the White House by President Jimmy Carter. Minnie continued to perform and record until she was bed confined. She died from cancer on July 12, 1979 at the age of 31. Her daughter is actress Maya Rudolph.


Kathleen Battle (born August 13, 1948), is an African-American operatic soprano known for her agile and light voice and her silvery, pure tone.[1][2] Battle initially became known for her work within the concert repertoire through performances with major orchestras during the early and mid 1970s. She made her opera debut in 1975. Battle expanded her repertoire into light lyric soprano and lyric coloratura soprano roles during the 1980s and early 1990s. Although she no longer appears in operas, Battle remains active in concert and recital performances.[3]Battle was a good student and was awarded a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she studied voice with Franklin Bens and also worked with Italo Tajo.[5] She majored in music education rather than performance in undergraduate school and went on to get a master’s degree in Music Education as well. In 1971 Battle embarked on a teaching career in Cincinnati, taking a position at a Cincinnati inner-city public school. While teaching 5th and 6th grade music, she continued to study voice privately. She later studied singing with Daniel Ferro in New York.[6]Among the conductors with whom Battle has worked are Herbert von KarajanRiccardo MutiZubin MehtaSeiji OzawaClaudio AbbadoGeorg SoltiCarlo Maria Giulini, and Battle’s fellow Ohioan James Levine, music director at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She has performed with many orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Orchestre de Paris. She has also appeared at the Salzburg Festival, Ravinia Festival, Tanglewood Festival, Blossom Festival, the Hollywood Bowl, Mann Music Centre Festival and the Caramoor Festival, and at Cincinnati May Festival.[42]On the less classical side, she has worked with vocalists Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin, Alicia Keys, and James Ingram, jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., jazz pianists Cyrus Chestnut andHerbie Hancock. Battle also lent voice to the song “This Time” on Janet Jackson’s album janet. and sang the title song, “Lovers”, for the 2004 Chinese action movie, House of Flying Daggers.[43]She also performs the music of Stevie Wonder.[35]

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