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


Hour 2

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 talk to film scholar DONALD BOGLE to help 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.”

Listen to the mp3

[audio: 030212_110630.mp3]

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.