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*Bobby Short was born on this date in 1924. He was a Black cabaret musician and singer.
Born Robert Waltrip Short in Danville, Illinois, he began performing after leaving home at the age of eleven for Chicago, with his mother's permission. He started working in clubs in the 1940s, and in 1968 settled at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City, where he became an institution. There, his effortless elegance, vocal phrasing (perfected through Mabel Mercer and Ethel Waters) made him very special to audiences. Short was a genius for presenting unknown songs worth knowing while keeping well-known songs fresh; his stride piano style, playing of the classical composers was a solid character.
His good cheer, resolute, self-disciplined professionalism; and most of all his ever-abounding joy in the great American song made him a great American treasure. He was known for his interpretation of songs by early 20th century white composers from Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, to George and Ira Gershwin. He also championed Black composers of the same period such as Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, Andy Razaf, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and Billy Strayhorn. Short presented them not in a polemical way, but as simply the obvious equal.
His dedication to what he called the "Great American Song" left him skilled at performing Bessie Smith's "Gimme a Pigfoot" or Gershwin and Duke's "I Can't Get Started with You." Short always said his favorite songwriters were Ellington, Arlen, and Kern, and he was instrumental in spearheading the construction of the Ellington Memorial in his second home of New York City.
In 1986: Short appeared in the Woody Allen film Hannah and Her Sisters. In 2000: The Library of Congress designated him as a Living Legend, a recognition established as part of its bicentennial celebration. In 2004: Short announced he will end his regular appearances at the Cafe Carlyle by the end of the year, in favor of touring, traveling, and spending time with friends. Short died of leukemia at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on March 21, 2005.
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