If the name Ethel Waters means anything to most people today its for her appearances as a token ''coloured" singer with evangelist Billy Graham - normally singing His Eye is on the Sparrow. Her incredible career as Broadway, cabaret, radio, movie and television super star are largely forgotten. I don't know if she is ever mentioned during Black History Month but she should be. She was one of the great entertainers of her generation and paved the way for so many.
I remember seeing her in an episode of Route 66 (I had such a crush on George Maharis) called Goodnight Sweet Blues and within a day or two running out to buy a compilation album of songs she had made famous. The album cover (right) had a picture of her from As Thousands Cheer (she was the first black woman to appear in an otherwise all white Broadway big revue) and was chocked full of goodies: Heat Wave, Suppertime, Stormy Weather, Am I Blue and all the great numbers from Harold Arlen and Vernon Duke's Cabin in the Sky. When I went searching on YouTube I found that every one of the hits from the film version of that show - MGM wisely realized they couldn't replace Ethel - are up there.
This is one of my favorites - Taking a Chance on Love with Eddie ''Rochester'' Anderson and Pearl Bailey's younger brother Bill doing the moonwalk!
And here she is in 1952 singing what was to become her theme song. As Bernice Sadie Brown in The Member of the Wedding she's joined by a young Julie Harris and a very young Brandon De Wilde. The three had created their roles on Broadway to great acclaim and thank god somebody in Hollywood decided to preserve it on film.
Whither she was sing of her love of God or her love of a man (or woman) Ethel knew how to sing it!
30 lulgio - San Pietro Crisologo