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Sun, 04.06.1902

Vera Hall, Folk Singer born.

Vera Hall

*Vera Hall was born on this date in 1902. She was a Black folk singer. Born Adell Hall Ward, she was from Payneville, Sumter County, Alabama, near Livingston, and sang her entire life.

Her mother, Zully Hall, and father, Agnes Efron, taught her songs such as "I Got the Home," "In the Rock," and "When I'm Standing Wondering, Lord, Show Me the Way." Hall married Nash Riddle, a coal miner, in 1917 and gave birth to their daughter, Minnie Ada. Riddle was killed in 1920. In the late 1930s, Hall's singing gained national exposure.   

John Avery Lomax, an ethnomusicologist, met Hall then and recorded her for the Library of Congress. Lomax wrote that she had the loveliest voice he had ever recorded. The BBC played Hall's "Another Man Done Gone" recording in 1943 as a sample of American folk music. The Library of Congress earlier played the song commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1937. In 1945, Hall recorded with Byron Arnold. 1984 the recordings were released as a collection of folk songs entitled Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy.

According to recording artist and writer Stephen Wade,"' Another Man Done Gone' became Vera Hall's most notable performance. Carl Sandburg recalled listening to it more than a dozen times during a January 1944 visit to Lomax's Dallas home." In 1948, with the help of Alan Lomax, Hall traveled to New York and performed on May 15 at the American Music Festival at Columbia University.

During the trip, Lomax interviewed Hall several times, later stating, "Her singing is like a deep-voiced shepherds' flute, mellow and pure in tone, yet always with hints of the lips and the pleasure-loving flesh...The sound comes from deep within her when she sings, from a source of gold and light, otherwise hidden, and falls directly upon your ear like sunlight. It is a liquid, full contralto, rich in low overtones, but it can leap directly into falsetto and play there as effortlessly as a bird in the wind." 

Vera Hall died on January 29, 1964, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her work still garners attention. Respected by scholars and folk song enthusiasts, Hall's recordings exemplify early blues and folk songs found nowhere else. Moby's 2000 single Natural Blues is an extended remix of the song Trouble So Hard recorded by Hall in 1937. Moby's real name is Richard Melville Hall. She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in 2005. A historical marker in Hall's honor was dedicated in Livingston, Ala, on April 21, 2007. Hall's 1959 rendition of "O, Death" was featured in episode three of the first season of Altered Carbon, a Netflix original.

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