The tragic life & career of groundbreaking singer-actress Ethel Waters
May 18, 2012
[REBROADCAST] The singers Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald were influenced by her. Lena Horne described her as “the mother of us all.” The Chester, Pennsylvania-born singer and actress Ethel Waters started her career out in black vaudeville, became one of the first African American women of the early 20th century to be heard on the radio, perform in Broadway shows, and star in a network TV sitcom. Many of the songs she’s known for are staples in the Great American Songbook, including: “Am I Blue,” “Suppertime” and "Stormy Weather.” We talked to film scholar DONALD BOGLE earlier this year to help us understand the ambitious entertainer who broke racial barriers with destitute beginnings: Waters was the product of a rape-at-knife-point. His recent book is "Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters."