KEXP Documentaries: “Sirens of Jazz” – Betty Carter


Betty Carter was an independent artist, owning her own label in the 1970’s, way before indie was an industry term.  Her voice had a floating quality that Ray Charles called “haunting.”   From the time she was 16, and won an amateur contest, her entry into the growing jazz scene seemed charmed.  She sang with Mingus, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and many other greats of her time.  She was a composer and arranger, unusual for a jazz singer in those days.   And she insisted that the voice was as valid an instrument as any other.

Betty hit the charts only once with Ray Charles on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in 1961. But she performed and taught until she died in the late 90s.  She taught at New York’s Jazz Ahead program for musicians under the age of 30.  She never held back and she encouraged her students not to. She said. “Be a leader, don’t follow. Do things so others follow YOU. Never hold back. Be an individual, something somebody will never forget.”

Listen to this KEXP Documentary:

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KEXP Documentaries are created by Michele Myers. With assistance from John Felthous, Abe Beeson and Mary Janisch. Executive Producer is Kevin Cole.  If you would like to follow along more closely in the creation of these radio stories, we post research materials, songs and videos on our Facebook page and on Twitter.

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One Comment

  1. Posted September 30, 2010 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Betty Carter is an extrordinary example for the jazz music.
    I think that her love for music grew a lot mainly because of her father and Ibelieve that her precocious start in playing piano and singing played a foundamental role for her future carrear

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