Tuesday, August 09, 2022
All this week, I must leave early for work. This will be short.
I want to write about accidentally discovering an early 20th Century singer Gladys Bentley, an African-American who became popular during the “Harlem Renaissance” era. She was a character, an off-beat, gutsy entertainer. She had a fabulous piano-playing style and an outstanding singing voice.
Bentley defined herself as a gay person. During her heyday in the Roaring Twenties, she emphasized her gender preferences, appearing on stage as a cross-dresser, always outfitted perfectly in a white tuxedo with tophat and tails. Her sense of self, over-the-top exhibitionism during those times, and her popularity, are fascinating from a sociological perspective.
Maybe, but what’s “the catcher” is her total musicality.
Here’s a clip of Bentley, in her fifties, appearing on Groucho Marx’s television show. They chat for a bit before he asks her to sing. She is gracious, sits at a piano, and brings it alive. The piano roars, and she sings in a voice outstanding for all time. How wonderful it would be to hear “what might have been” if her talent had been assisted by a modern skilled music producer.
Anyway, meet Bentley yourself in this two-minute clip. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-LTJNasTMc
Dear Friends: Have a wonderful day. Diana