Each month I enjoy shinning the spotlight on a jazz legend that has paved the way for other performers, performers that will be responsible for keeping the we music we love alive. In this month of January, my thoughts are locked on young lady who's career began when she won a talent contest a very young age. She was once called the 'only true jazz singer' by another great singing legend. She later revolutionized the art of scat singing and helped established a program for the youth in jazz. Ladies and gentlemen I would like to shine the light on our jazz legend for this month of January 2012, Ms. Betty Carter.
Betty was born, Lilly Mae Jones, on May 16, 1929 in Flint Michigan. And yes she did win a talent contest at 14 years old. From there her career never looked back. From the way I understand it, Betty's style was so good, so unique that the talented, beautiful Carmen McRae once called her 'the only true jazz singer'. What can you say about a young woman who was so gifted that at the age of 16, was performing with the great Charlie Parker. From there Betty's performance list included Ray Charles, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins and Dizzy. In 1958, Betty released her first solo album, Out There. Everyone loved Betty and I adored her. It was her vocal ability, her personality and her stage persona. In 1958, she teamed with Ray Charles on the hit song, Baby It Is Cold Outside. With Betty's popularity at the top, people were trying to capitalize on her in every way possible. In fact I was told the story how one record company A&R man tried to actually steal her music. So in 1970, Betty launched her own record company, BettCar. What an amazing woman of business and talent. So much talent that in 1988, Betty won a Grammy for her album , Look What I Got. She also appeared on the Cosby Show, at The White House for President Clinton and was the headliner the Verve 50th Anniversary celebration at Carnegie Hall. In 1997 Ms. Carter was awarded the National Medal of The Arts. But when I think about what Betty did for the youth of the world, as a mentor, a musical instructor, and a friend, you really can see where her heart was. Keeping jazz alive by involving the youth was so important to Betty that she was very instrumental in establishing the Jazz Ahead Program at the New York Kennedy Center in 1993. This a session that happens every year, where musicians 21 years old and younger perform, attend jazz seminars and get tutored by some great jazz musician from around the world. If you were to ask me what is my favorite Betty Carter recording, I would say the 1987 album she recorded with one of her best friends, Carmen McRae. What a tremendous album showcasing outstanding vocal ability and collaboration between two legendary singers. Jazz was the biggest part of Betty's life, from the beginning to her untimely passing in 1998. The next year Betty was inducted into the Jazz Hall Of Fame. What a career for a lady who won a talent show in Flint Michigan at the age of 14. We thank you Ms. Betty Carter, for the memories and the love.
Thank you and God bless