Radio Times

The tragic life & career of groundbreaking singer-actress Ethel Waters

December 24, 2013

(Radio Times is pre-empted today for national programming.)

[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’ll listen back to Marty’s interview with film scholar DONALD BOGLE from 2012 to help understand the ambitious entertainer who broke racial barriers with destitute beginnings: Waters was the product of a rape-at-knife-point. His 2011 book is “Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters.”

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