Tuesday, August 29, 2006

His Eye on the Sparrow

Ethel Waters 1896-1977
Ethel Waters was born on October 31, 1896 in Chester, Pennsylvania to Louise Anderson and John Wesley Waters. She attended Catholic school through the sixth grade. Ms. Waters pioneering career opened theatrical doors hitherto closed to black performers of her day. She fought hard and long to achieve solo star status in the white world of vaudeville, night clubs, Broadway theater, radio, films and television.

On July 11, 1927, she made her New York stage debut in Africana at Daly's Theatre. Her career continued to escalate in such black shows as The Blackbirds of 1928 (and 1930) and Rhapsody in Black. In 1939 she was acclaimed in Mamba's Daughters, which role gave Ms. Waters the distinction of being the first black actress to star on Broadway in a dramatic play. Her Broadway career continued its spectacular ascent with such hit shows as At Home Abroad and Cabin in the Sky. In 1950, Ms. Waters once again made theatrical history as she took on the lead role of the Broadway smash-hit The Member of the Wedding. In 1929, she made her film debut in the new talking films, singing "Am I Blue?" and "Birmingham Bertha" in On with the Show, remade a few years later as Forty-Second Street. In 1933, her sensational rendition of "Stormy Weather" at the Cotton Club made her the talk of the town. Ms. Water's last years were spent touring with the evangelist Billy Graham, still performing occasionally, until her death on September 2, 1977, at the age of 80 in Chatsworth, California.


This advertisement appeared in the Chicago Defender, the nation's most widely read black newspaper. "Ethel Waters," advertisement, Chicago Defender, Nov. 5, 1921, p. 7.

"When I first went on the stage I was 17 and under the legal age for performers." Ethel Waters

"I have reason to be shy. I've been hurt plenty. "Ethel Waters

"I just ran wild as a little girl. I was always a leader of the street gang. By the time I was 7 I knew all about sex and life in the raw." Ethel Waters
"I never felt I belonged. I was always an outsider." Ethel Waters
"I never was coddled, or liked, or understood by my family." Ethel Waters

Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Ethel Waters in Stagedoor Canteen, 1943

"Actors were not allowed to dance on the stage on the Sabbath and couldn't wear anything but street clothes while performing." Ethel Waters

"The greatest acts in colored show business had long made Harlem their home and favorite stamping ground. "Ethel Waters

"Hoofers and singers from all over Harlem wanted to work in our place so they could get their cut of our big kitty." Ethel Waters
"No one in the world can beat Ella Fitzgerald as a riff singer." Ethel Waters
Ethel Waters, Eddie Rochester Anderson and Lena Horne

"I had a sweet, bell-like voice. However, I seldom depended on my voice to win social recognition." Ethel Waters

"Asking what I considered an impossible salary when I didn't want to work for someone has boosted my pay again and again." Ethel Waters

"I could always open shows, perform through the middle, and close shows." Ethel Waters

"I've never been able to feel that there is anything undignified about making your living by the sweat of your brow." Ethel Waters


Ethel Waters and Eddie Rochester Anderson in 'Cabin in the Sky.' (1943)


"I know the most terrible thing that can happen to a woman. That is the gang-up. Men put you to sleep with their drops and one man after another goes in and takes you. "Ethel Waters

"I want affection and tenderness desperately, but there's something in me that prevents me from handing it out." Ethel Waters

"I never posed as a saint. I would have slept with a man for nothing if I liked him well enough." Ethel Waters

"All the men in my life have been two things: an epic and an epidemic." Ethel Waters


Ethel Waters, Brandon de Wilde, Julie Harris(film debut)
Member of the Wedding
Director: Fred Zinnemann1952


"Though I was a Catholic, I recognized that Protestant churches had something." Ethel Waters

"I never neglect to pray to my God before I step out there. "Ethel Waters

"Somehow, the things my mother wanted to do, the release in evangelism she sought with such frenzy, were transferred to me." Ethel Waters

"I wondered what I would do if I didn't have my God to turn to and be able to read the Book He had divinely inspired." Ethel Waters

"It has been an ache and a joy both to look over this big shoulder of mine at all my yesterdays." Ethel Waters

I have just finished reading To Me It's Wonderful by Ethel Waters(1972) and I found the book to be an open, honest and compelling autobiography. She also has another book His Eye Is on the Sparrow(1950) .

It's very late and I have a busy morning ahead of me, I am off to bed. Goodnight Everyone! Comments are always appreciated.


N Posted by Rain at 8/29/2006 12:23:00 AM

3 Comments

  • Blogger Lyndon posted at 5:41 AM  
    Never heard about Ethel before, but if she has your seal of approval, she must be interesting.

    Thanks for trying to email me, didn't get it for some reason. I've got a post explaining my absence.

    Pleasant Dreams!
  • Anonymous Anonymous posted at 8:03 PM  
    I was wondering why you were listening to your moms records on Sunday...now I understand. She truly did have a beautiful voice didn't she??

    XOXOXO Candy
  • Blogger TECH posted at 6:52 AM  
    An amazing woman.
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