Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Thu, 12.10.1953

Diane Schuur, Pianist and Singer born

Diane Schuur

*Diane Schuur was born on this date in 1953.  She is a white-American jazz singer and pianist.  

Diane Joan Schuur was born in Tacoma, Washington, two months premature and weighing less than three pounds. Complications of prematurity resulted in her total loss of vision. Her twin brother, David, had normal vision at birth but some hearing loss.  She also has a younger sister.  Schuur received a financial settlement from her birth hospital for her vision loss.  

Schuur started singing when she was about three years old. Her mother, who died when she was 13, loved jazz and had a Duke Ellington record collection. Her father, a police captain, was an amateur musician who often played piano with his daughter sitting by his side.  Prematurity is associated with blindness, but it was not universally known at the time of her birth that high oxygen levels in a neonatal incubator can hurt the developing retinas of the eyes, thereby increasing the incidence of blindness.  The settlement money helped her to buy a house in later years.  Schuur was called "Deedle-Babes," "Deeds," and other variations of this name by her mother. "Deedles" is the nickname that stuck and became the title of one of her early albums.

Schuur grew up in Auburn, Washington, near Seattle.  She attended the Washington School for the Blind in Vancouver from age four to eleven. She lived at school but could commute home 150 miles on the train by herself. She later transferred to public school, where teachers' aides helped her keep up in class.  She stated, "As far back as I can remember, singing was in my blood. My parents loved music, and I loved to sing. I was scatting at an early age".  She has an absolute pitch memory. Unlike the average person, in Schuur's mind, every sound – musical or not – has a note value; for example, if she hears a humming motor, she knows the name that note has on a musical instrument.  

Schuur listened to the radio avidly in her youth; her early musical idols were Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington.  She said that as a small child, she would often retreat to a closet to sing.  Schuur first learned to play the piano by ear. Though she later learned to read braille-written music, she found its use frustrating and impractical since it took away the use of one of her hands while playing the piano; however, she frequently used braille-transcribed lyrics in performances and during recording sessions. At age ten, one of her first public performances was singing country music at Tacoma's Holiday Inn, a booking arranged by her aunt.  Even as a student at the Washington School for the Blind, she would come home on weekends, perform on Friday and Saturday nights, and take a train back to school for Monday classes.  

At age 15, she was taken by her father to Lake Tahoe to audition as a lounge singer at Harrah's Hotel and casino. She got the job, but her widowed father found it impossible to leave his job at the police force to chaperone her, and the offer had to be declined.  Schuur was noticed by country music singer/actor Jimmy Wakely, who met her in an Elks Club in 1971 when she was eighteen. After auditioning for him, Wakely arranged a recording session in California. Accompanied by her sister, Schuur took her first airplane trip to the session and made a 45-rpm record of a song called "Dear Mommy and Daddy."  Schuur performed locally a great deal in her late teens and had started to develop a distinctive musical voice. Entertainment writer Stewart Weiner called it a "crystal-clear vocal tone hitting every note in the center of the bull's eye."  

In 1996, she was a guest performer on Sesame Street, where she was interviewed by Elmo and described to him how a blind person can learn to use other senses to adapt to the world. In 1996, Schuur married Les Crockett, a retired space engineer she affectionately called "Rocket." Years later, he developed Parkinson's disease, prostate cancer, and other health issues; they divorced.  Crockett developed dementia and hallucinations, requiring institutional care with her blindness; she could not care for him.  She is an avid reader and a cat owner.  She is an ardent fan of the American daytime television series The Young and the Restless.  

She won Grammy Awards for Best Female Jazz Vocal Performance in 1986 and 1987.  Her Grammy awards, inscribed in braille, sit on a Baldwin piano given to her by the manufacturer.   In 2011, Schuur experienced skydiving in Hawaii, attached in tandem to an instructor, and said, "I don't know if I'd ever do that again."  As of 2015, Schuur had released 23 albums.  Schuur has performed at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, and the White House with Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, and Stevie Wonder. Co-performers on Schuur's albums have included José Feliciano and B.B. King. Her album with B.B. King was number one on the Billboard Jazz Charts. She was Johnny Carson's guest on NBC's The Tonight Show eleven times.   In 2000, she was awarded the Helen Keller Achievement Award by the American Foundation for the Blind.

In a 2011 interview, Schuur stated that she had chronically struggled with her weight. She had a drug and alcohol addiction in the late 1980s and had attempted suicide in the past.  She benefited from twelve-step programs and, as of 2016, had been sober for several decades. Schuur has dedicated songs to the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in her shows. She stated that her life has grown much more spiritually as she matured.   

To Become a Musician or Singer

To Become a Conductor or Composer

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

I kissed a kiss in youth Upon a dead man's brow; And that was long ago- And I'm a grown man now. It's lain there in the dust, Thirty years and more- My lips that... SCINTILLA by William Stanley Braithwaite.
Read More