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Tue, 07.03.1923

Johnny Hartman, Vocalist born

Johnny Hartman

Johnny Hartman, a Black singer, was born on this date in 1923.

Born in Chicago, John Maurice Hartman began singing early on and performed in Special Services in the Army.  Hartman studied music in college and made his professional debut in the mid-1940s.  He performed with Earl Hines and recorded his first sides for Regent/Savoy.   After Hines' band broke up in 1947, Hartman moved to the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and stayed for two years, recording a few additional sides for Mercury.

Johnny Hartman's first proper LP came in 1956 with "Songs from the Heart," recorded for Bethlehem and featuring a quartet led by trumpeter Howard McGhee.  He recorded a second LP ("All of Me") later that year but was virtually off-record until 1963. Though he was never the most distinctive vocalist, Hartman rose above others to become one of the most commanding, smooth balladeers of the 1950s and '60s.

A Black crooner, he closely followed Billy Eckstine and built on the form with his notable jazz collaborations, including the 1963 masterpiece John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.  A beautiful set of ballad standards, including top-flight renditions of "Lush Life" and "My One and Only Love," the album sparked a flurry of activity for Hartman, including two more albums for Impulse: the 1963 "I Just Dropped By To Say Hello" and the following year "The Voice That Is."

During the late 1960s and early '70s, he recorded various jazz and pop standards albums for ABC, Perception, and Blue Note. Hartman recorded sparingly during the 1970s but returned with two albums recorded in 1980, one of which ("Once In Every Life") earned a Grammy nomination just two years before his death on September 15, 1983, in New York City.

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Heart & Soul:
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

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