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Waters, Ethel

Born: 1896 AD
Died: 1977 AD

1896 – Ethel Waters, born on the 31st of October in Chester, Philadelphia, U.S. American blues and jazz singer and dramatic actress whose singing, based in the blues tradition, featured her full-bodied voice, wide range, and slow vibrato.

1908 – She grew up in extreme poverty and was married for the first time at the age of 12, while she was still attending convent school.

1909 – At 13 she became a chambermaid in a Philadelphia hotel, and that same year she sang in public for the first time in a local nightclub.

1913 – At 17, billing herself as “Sweet Mama Stringbean,” Waters was singing professionally in Baltimore, Maryland. It was there that she became the first woman to sing the W.C. Handy classic “St. Louis Blues” on the stage.

1925 – She appeared at the Plantation Club in Harlem, and her performance there led to Broadway.

1927 – She appeared in the all-black revue Africana, and thereafter she divided her time between the stage, nightclubs, and eventually movies.

1930 – She was on the Broadway stage again in Blackbirds, a revival of the popular musical, and the following year she starred in Rhapsody in Black.

1933 – Appeared with Marilyn Miller in Irving Berlin’s musical As Thousands Cheer, her first departure from shows with all-black casts. Her rendition of “Heat Wave” in that show linked the song permanently to her.

1938 – First straight dramatic role was in the production of DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s Mamba’s Daughters.

1940 – She spent a season on Broadway in the hit musical Cabin in the Sky, and she also appeared in another film version.

1950 – Her greatest dramatic success was in the stage version of Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding, a performance for which she won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

1977 – Died on the 1st of September in Chatsworth, California.