Herb Jeffries, jazz balladeer and star of all-black cowboy movies, dies

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2014-05-26 21:33Z by Steven

Herb Jeffries, jazz balladeer and star of all-black cowboy movies, dies

The Washington Post

Adam Bernstein, Editor

Source: Wikipedia

Herb Jeffries, a jazz balladeer whose matinee-idol looks won him fame in the late 1930s as the “Bronze Buckaroo” — the first singing star of all-black cowboy movies for segregated audiences — died May 25 at a hospital in West Hills, Calif. He was widely believed to be 100, but for years he insisted he was much older.

The cause was stomach and heart ailments, said Raymond Strait, a friend of 70 years who had been working with Mr. Jeffries on his autobiography. Mr. Jeffries liked to exaggerate his age to shock listeners. “He wanted people to say, ‘Wow, he can still sing pretty good for 111,’ ” Strait said.

Mr. Jeffries had a seven-decade career on film, television, record and in nightclubs. His baritone voice — extraordinarily rich but delicate — was memorably captured on his greatest musical success, a 1941 hit recording of “Flamingo” with Duke Ellington’s big band.

With a towering physique and a square jaw, Mr. Jeffries was perfectly suited to capitalize on the singing-cowboy movie craze that Gene Autry and Roy Rogers popularized in the 1930s…

…Mr. Jeffries was coy about his background. He claimed, at times, to have been born Umberto Alejandro Balentino to an Irish mother and Sicilian father of mixed race. Other sources say he was born Herbert Ironton Jeffries in Detroit, probably on Sept. 24, 1913 — the date Strait said was correct. Other reported dates of birth range from 1909 to 1916.

He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2008 of his heritage: “I’m all colors, like everyone else. If we all go back 10 or 15 generations, we don’t know what we have in us. I don’t think there’s one person from around the Mediterranean who doesn’t have Moorish blood. I have Sicilian blood, and I have Moorish blood. I am colored, and I love it. I have a right to identify myself the way I do and if nobody likes it, what are they going to do? Kill my career?”

Mr. Jeffries never knew his father. He was raised by his mother in a boardinghouse she ran and where many singers and actors stayed. It was this exposure to show business that led Mr. Jeffries to appear, as a young man, in Detroit nightclubs and ballrooms…

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Albert Murray, author who drew on the free-wheeling spirit of jazz, dies at 97

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2013-08-22 01:12Z by Steven

Albert Murray, author who drew on the free-wheeling spirit of jazz, dies at 97

The Washington Post

Adam Bernstein, Reporter

Albert Murray, a self-described “riff-style intellectual” whose novels, nonfiction books and essays drew on the free-wheeling spirit of jazz and whose works underscored how black culture and the blues in particular were braided into American life, died Aug. 18 at his home in New York City. He was 97…

…He began a full-time writing career after leaving the Air Force in 1962 at the rank of major. His debut collection, “The Omni-Americans: New Perspectives on Black Experience and American Culture,” had immediate cultural impact.

It was a tome of contrarian, independent thinking — a riposte to both black complacency and black militancy. It also fought attempts to interpret black life through sociological concepts, even those espoused by well-meaning liberals such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

“The United States is in actuality not a nation of black people and white people,” Mr. Murray wrote. “It is a nation of multicolored people. There are white Americans so to speak and black Americans. But any fool can see that the white people are not really white and that black people are not black. They are all interrelated one way or another.

American culture, he continued, is “incontestably mulatto,” and Americans of all races are inheritors of a cultural tradition that makes them “part Yankee, part backwoodsman and Indian — and part Negro.”…

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