ALBERTA HUNTER: A Celebration in Blues by Frank C. with Gerald Cook Taylor

ALBERTA HUNTER: A Celebration in Blues

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Authorized by Hunter shortly before her death at 89 in 1984, this affectionate, ""tell-it-like-it-is"" biography traces the career of the classic blues singer whose musical contemporaries included the likes of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Bricktop, Josephine Baker, Mabel Mercer, Ethel Waters and Eartha Kitt. Born in Memphis, Hunter headed north for Chicago at an early age, and was soon singing in gangster-run clubs. Gaining confidence, she moved on to New York and was a popular entertainer in the Harlem of the ""Renaissance."" Vaudeville turns throughout the country filled in the blank spots in her performance schedule, then it was on to Paris and the Continent. Recordings, frequently of her own blues ballads and more-than-slightly risquÉ material, spread her fame. At 62, Hunter retired and, lying about her age, enrolled in a nurse's training program. For 20 years, she devoted herself to tending the sick and aged. At 82, she was rediscovered by Barney Josephson, impresario of""The Cookery"" in Greenwich Village. She was an instantaneous hit and spent the remaining seven years of her life appearing in the US and overseas. Though it is a story that could easily fall into sentimentality, Taylor and Cook have been wise in rejecting a misty-eyed approach to their subject. Hunter, a lesbian who refused to flaunt her sexual orientation, was, perhaps because of this self-repression, often distant and bristling. Not given to throwing her money about, she could be demanding and manipulative with friends and business associates. Despite these characteristics, however, Hunter comes across as an indomitable spirit who because of her talent was able to move and inspire audiences for decades. The writing here is lucid and forward-moving without being self-consciously ""with it."" While the chronology is sometimes confusing, for the most part the authors have produced a narrative that captures the spirit not only of their fascinating protagonist but of her times as well. A straightforward, consistently intriguing life story. Twenty-four pages of photographs (not seen).

Pub Date: March 30th, 1987
Publisher: McGraw-Hill