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On this date in 1895, Alberta Hunter was born in Memphis, TN. She was an African American blues and cabaret singer and an early and enduring Black recording star.
Alberta Hunter adapted her large and supple voice to a variety of musical styles and had one of the longest careers of any of the early female blues singers as she performed over a span of eight decades. She ran away from Memphis at age 11 to Chicago, hoping to work as a singer and send money to her mother. She became an immediate success and as her reputation grew she appeared in nightclubs with such American jazz musicians as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller. She also performed on Broadway and in 1921 she made her first record.
Hunter's best-known song was "Downhearted Blues" (1922), which she wrote. In 1923, American blues singer Bessie Smith recorded the song and it became widely known. In 1927, Hunter traveled to London, where she sang opposite American singer Paul Robeson in the British premiere of the musical "Showboat" by American composer Jerome Kern. Hunter subsequently sang in Holland, Denmark, and France. She was the first singer to perform American Blues music in Europe. During World War II (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953), Hunter toured the world in military entertainment shows.
In 1955, when her mother died, she retired from singing. She studied to be a nurse and later worked in hospitals in New York City. In 1977, Hunter's singing talent was rediscovered and at the age of 82, she renewed her singing career and became famous once again. Seven years later she died in New York City.
Red Hot Jazz, Alberta Hunter
Heart & Soul
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta james
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books