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Sat, 05.27.1950

Dee Dee Bridgewater, a global performer

Dee Dee Bridgewater

*Dee Dee Bridgewater was born on this date in 1950.  She is a Black singer, producer and actress.

Born Denise Eileen Garrett in Memphis, Tennessee.  She grew up in Flint, Michigan, her father, Matthew Garrett, was a jazz trumpeter and teacher at Manassas High School.  In a Registry interview she talked fondly about her childhood visits to her grandparents home and many memories of her childhood from summers spent on their farm in Amelia, Ohio.  At the age of sixteen, she was singing in clubs in Michigan.  In 1968, she attended Michigan State University before transferring to the University of Illinois.

In 1969, with their jazz band, she toured the Soviet Union. The next year, she met and married trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and they moved to New York City, where Cecil played in Horace Silver's band.  In the early 1970s, Bridgewater joined the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra as the lead vocalist.  This marked the beginning of her jazz career, and she performed with many of the great jazz musicians of the time, such as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and others. In 1973, she performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

In 1974, she released her first own album, entitled Afro Blue and she also performed on Broadway in the musical The Wiz. For her role as Glinda the Good Witch she won a Tony Award in 1975 as "best featured actress", and the musical also won the 1976 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.  She subsequently appeared in several other stage productions. After touring France in 1984 with the musical Sophisticated Ladies, she moved to Paris in 1986. The same year saw her in Lady Day as Billie Holiday, for which role she was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she returned from the world of musical to jazz. She performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990, and four years later, she finally collaborated with Horace Silver, whom she had long admired, and released the album Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver. Performed also at the San Francisco Jazz Festival (1996). Her 1997 tribute album Dear Ella won her the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, and the 1998 album Live at Yoshi's was also worth a Grammy nomination. Performed again at the Monterey Jazz Festival (1998). She has also explored on This is New (2002) the songs of Kurt Weill, and, on her next album J'ai Deux Amours (2005), the French Classics. Her album Red Earth, released in 2007, featured Africa-inspired themes and contributions by numerous musicians from the West African nation of Mali.

In 2007, Bridgewater performed at the San Francisco Jazz Festival and with the Terence Blanchard Quintet at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She tours frequently around the world.  In 2009 Bridgewater opened the Shanghai JZ Jazz Festival with tunes associated with Ella Fitzgerald, Ellington compositions and other jazz standards. She is also a United Nations Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization. Bridgewater is mother to three children, Tulani Bridgewater from her marriage to Cecil Bridgewater, China Moses from her marriage to theater, film and television director Gilbert Moses and Gabriel Durand from her last marriage to French concert promoter Jean-Marie Durand.  In 2010 Bridgewater release Eleanora Fagan, To Billie with love from Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Reference:

Voices That Guide Us interview, African American Registry.

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