Gladys Bentley

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.

Dear Friends: Have a wonderful day. Diana

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s