(b Forestville, NY, Jan 25, 1887; d Miami Beach, FL, Jan 31, 1995). American stage director, producer, playwright, and actor. During a 92-year career in the theater Abbott influenced the development of musical comedy and helped launch many important careers. He made his Broadway acting debut in 1913 and continued to act during the 1920s. He also began working as both a playwright and director. After his first hit, The Fall Guy, Abbott began to write and stage fast-paced melodramas. In 1932 he co-produced a farce called 20th Century; it was in this genre that he defined a fast-paced theatrical style that became known as the Abbott Touch. He was the leading director of musical comedies. Abbott also wrote the books for On your Toes (1936), The Boys from Syracuse (1938), and Pal Joey (1940), the scores of which were composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In ...
Douglas B. Green
(b near Willcox, AZ, Dec 31, 1924; d Tucson, AZ, Dec 19, 1999). American singing cowboy, songwriter, actor, and radio and recording artist. Born on a remote ranch, Allen had a powerful voice of tremendous range, was a world-class yodeler, and a prolific songwriter. He had begun a performing career straight out of high school and, after a stint at WTTM in Trenton, NJ, was added to the National Barn Dance cast in 1945. A true westerner and a good horseman, he seemed a natural for the singing cowboy film genre, but it was a genre in decline, and his was the last singing series any studio launched. Allen’s first film for Republic was the fittingly titled Arizona Cowboy (1950), and his last of 19 movies was Phantom Stallion (1954).
Allen then turned to television, starring in Frontier Doctor (1958). He was able to keep up an active recording and touring career, supplemented by Disney Studios’ (and other studios’) frequent use of his avuncular and authoritative speaking voice as a narrator of documentaries, television features, and feature films such as ...
(b Chicago, June 5, 1947). American performance artist and composer. Although she played the violin from childhood, she received her formal training in the visual arts (Barnard College, BA 1969; Columbia University, MFA 1972). During the 1970s she became one of the most celebrated practitioners of performance art. Her work has incorporated graphics, lighting, sculpture, mime, slides, film, speech, music and many electronic devices, some of her own design. By 1976 her performances were featured prominently in museums and concert venues across Europe and North America.
The first phase of Anderson's career culminated in the seven-hour work, United States, I-IV, performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1983. Hailed as a landmark by postmodernist theorists, the work was regarded as thematizing the contradictions and tensions of late-capitalist society. Against a backdrop of stylish visuals, she played electronically enhanced violins, sang, mimed, controlled an elaborate bank of electronic devices and recited her own witty, yet disturbing poetry, that hovers between scathing social criticism and ironic self-parody. Much of her work comments on the alienation produced by contemporary culture, but at the same time self-consciously relies on the very technological mediation it appears to lament....
Hugh Davies and Susan McClary
(b Chicago, IL, June 5, 1947). American performance artist, composer, and instrument innovator. Although she played the violin from childhood, she received her formal training in the visual arts (Barnard College, BA 1969; Columbia University, MFA 1972). During the 1970s she became one of the most celebrated practitioners of performance art. Her work has incorporated graphics, lighting, sculpture, mime, slides, film, speech, music, and many electronic devices, some of her own design. By 1976 her performances were featured prominently in museums and concert venues across Europe and North America.
Anderson has achieved great visibility, in part because of her originality: coming to music from the visual arts, she was free to manipulate sounds as she liked. Her unexpected crossover into the popular domain brought her a degree of fame and influence usually unavailable to avant-garde artists.
Since the mid-1970s Anderson has developed several instruments for use in her performances and exhibitions. A typical programme for one of her live shows includes all or part of her large-scale music theatre work ...
(b St. Louis, MO, Apr 4, 1928). American poet, novelist, playwright, actor, and educator. Angelou was educated at Stamps, AR, and the Labor School in San Francisco. Her early career focused on dance and drama. In 1959 she moved to New York, where she joined the Harlem Writers Guild. Exploring various kinds of oppression (economic, racial, and sexual), she has published more than ten books of poetry, six autobiographies, of which I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) is the best known, numerous plays, and librettos for musicals, as well as scripts for film and television. The reading of her commissioned poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton (20 January 1993) brought her national recognition. Other texts by this celebrated African American poet have been set to music by Bolcom, Danielpour, Garner, Deon Nielson Price, and Judith Weir. Among her honors are two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize, three Grammy Awards (...
Frances R. Aparicio
[Muñiz, Marco Antonio]
(b New York City, Sept 16, 1968). American singer, songwriter, and actor of Puerto Rican ancestry. Named after the famous Mexican singer Marco Antonio Muñiz (b 1933), Marc Anthony has become one of the most famous and important Latino singer-songwriters in the United States. Because of the excellence of his voice and his commitment to his Latino and Caribbean roots, he has become the biggest selling salsa artist of all time, with over 10 million albums sold worldwide. After singing house and freestyle music in English in his early career, Marc Anthony revitalized salsa music with a series of early 1990s musical hits that paved the way for the 1999 Latin pop explosion. He has successfully crossed linguistic borders, singing both in English and Spanish within the same album and thus contesting the label of “crossover.” His stage performances and the hybrid musical arrangements that have cast traditional Puerto Rican songs like “Preciosa” and “Lamento borincano” as salsa songs embody his Nuyorican identity in the public space, thus exemplifying the transnational nature of salsa music. Some of his best-known songs in English include “I Need to Know” and “You Sang to Me.”...
(b Bucharest, Romania, Dec 25, 1907; d Tirana, Albania, March 17, 1979). Tenor, actor, and stage director. He studied at the Mimodramatic High School of Bucharest and then in Rome, with M. Polverosi. In Romania, he had a successful career as an actor and singer. He was in the movie industry in the 1920s and early 30s, playing in more than 15 films, including Ciocoii (1931), Iancu Jianu, (1928), and Maiorul Mura (1927). In the meantime, he worked in the Alhambra theater as a singer and stage director of operettas. In the mid 1930s, Antoniu moved to Albania and pursued a singing career. He made only one cinematic appearance in 1943, for the short film documentary Takimi në liqen (‘Meeting at the Lake’). He was a dramatic tenor, with a baritone quality in his voice. This led him to explore a large range of operatic characters from both the Western opera repertory and the Albanian one. He performed and recorded Albanian traditional or folk songs, handled with an operatic vocal posture and arranged with western harmonies. His son, Gjergj Antoniu was a prominent Albanian cellist....
(b Omaha, NE, May 10, 1899; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 22, 1987). American dancer, singer, choreographer, and actor. He began performing at the age of seven with his sister Adele. As a duo they worked in vaudeville from 1906 to 1916 and moved to Broadway in 1917. Starring roles in The Bunch and Judy (1922) and For Goodness Sake (1923) led to Lady, be good! (1924), which marked their arrival as top Broadway stars. During the 1920s several of the Astaires’ successful shows appeared in the West End in London, where the pair enjoyed a cult-like following. After The Band Wagon (1931) Adele retired from the stage to marry an English aristocrat. Astaire appeared in Gay Divorce in New York (1932) and London (1933), before signing a contract with RKO, the smallest major film studio in Hollywood....
Saadalla Agha Al-Kalaa
(b al-Qrayya, Syria, Oct 18, 1915; d Beirut, Dec 26, 1974). Syrian singer, composer, ‘ūd player and film actor and producer. In 1924 political circumstances forced his family to move to Egypt. His mother, the noted singer ‘Aliyya al-Munther, taught him singing in the Syrian style. He studied the ‘ūd (lute) at the Cairo Institute for Arab Music. His professional work began as an ‘ūd player and singer at the national radio station and in Badī ‘a Maṣabnī's variety show saloon.
In 1941, through his sister Asmahān , he entered the cinema industry, and for the rest of his life was involved in films as a composer, singer actor, and producer. His singing of Syrian mawwāl (popular songs), tangos and rumbas achieved great popularity, and his work laid the foundations for Arab variety show films, cinematic operetta, orchestral musical overtures and comic and sad songs. His 31 films are mostly autobiographical and provide valuable insight into the role of the musician in society....
(b Tioga, TX, Sept 29, 1907; d Los Angeles, CA, Oct 2, 1998). American country-music and popular singer, songwriter, and actor. He began his career singing on the radio station KVOO in Tulsa, while working as a relief telegraph operator for the Frisco Railroad. In October 1929 he went to New York to make his first recordings, which were much in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, for RCA Victor and several small independent labels; these were released under the name Gene Autry and led to a contract with the American Record Corporation, which was later taken over by the Columbia Broadcasting System; Autry’s recordings would then be issued by the Columbia Recording Co. In 1931 Autry had his first hit with “Silver Haired Daddy of Mine.” He moved to Chicago in 1932 to star on radio station WLS. There his singing-cowboy persona was developed on the National Barn Dance...
Linda J. Daniel
(b Duncan, OK, March 25, 1938; d nr Victor, MT, Oct 26, 1999). American singer-songwriter and actor. He took lessons in classical piano as a child and began playing guitar in his teens. His mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was a hit for Elvis Presley in 1956. Axton attended Oklahoma State University, where he excelled in football before leaving to serve in the navy. His music career began in the early 1960s, when he began performing as a singer-songwriter in the folk clubs of southern California. “Greenback Dollar,” a song he co-wrote with Ken Ramsey, became a hit for the Kingston Trio. In 1962 Axton signed with Horizon Records, which released his first album The Balladeer (Horizon, 1962), recorded live at the Troubadour in Hollywood, followed by Thunder’n Lightnin’ and Saturday’s Child (both Horizon, 1963). From 1964 to 1971 he was associated with several labels, including Vee-Jay, Surrey, Exodus, Columbia, and Capitol. His albums with A&M—...
Ronald M. Radano
(b New York, March 1, 1927). American popular singer and actor. He lived in Kingston, Jamaica, for five years (1935–40), returning to New York in 1940. In 1945 he began a career as an actor, having studied in Erwin Piscator’s drama workshop at the New School of Social Research. He experienced greater commercial success, however, as a popular singer, making his début at the Royal Roost, New York, in 1949. The following year he rejected his popular song repertory and began to sing traditional melodies from Africa, Asia, America and the Caribbean, which he collected in folk music archives. Having secured an RCA recording contract in 1952, Belafonte went on to become the most popular ‘folk’ singer in the USA. His interpretations of Trinidadian calypso music between 1957 and 1959 won him his greatest success and marked the pinnacle of his career. His mass appeal through the 1950s, moreover, enabled him to resume his work as an actor, and he appeared in several films. During the 1960s and 70s his popularity waned, but he continued to record, and to perform in nightclubs and theatres for a predominantly white, middle-class audience. In ...
[Kubelsky, Benjamin ]
(b Chicago, IL, Feb 14, 1894; d Beverly Hills, CA, Dec 26, 1974). American Entertainer, actor, and violinist. The son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Lithuania, he began playing violin at age six and was considered a local prodigy. By age 17 he was playing in vaudeville pit orchestras and soon moved onto the stage. Benny paired up with a pianist—initially Cora Salisbury, then Lyman Wood—in his signature musical act of this time, “From Grand Opera to Ragtime.” After brief service in the US Navy during World War I, Benny returned to vaudeville as a single in an act emphasizing comedy over music. He married Mary Livingstone (Sadye Marks) in 1927. She was an integral part of Benny’s act for most of his career. Although a movie contract with MGM in 1929 led nowhere, Benny found his true medium on radio. His first radio appearance came on ...
Craig A. Lockard
(b Vienna, Austria, May 2, 1924). American and Israeli actor and singer. Born into a Jewish family, he spent his youth in Austria. Following the Nazi occupation the Bikel family escaped to Palestine, where he made his stage debut in 1943. Moving to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he began his acting career in 1948 in A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1954 he immigrated to the United States and, in 1961, became a naturalized American. He made his concert debut at Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, in 1956 with a program of folk songs. In 1959 he was cast as Georg von Trapp in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. During his long career Bikel has appeared in numerous films, plays, and musicals, from the lead in Zorba to over 2000 performances as the penniless milkman Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof...
(b Panama City, Panama, July 16, 1946). Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor, and activist. His musical projects are mostly defined by his commitment to social justice and civil rights. The US military occupation of the Canal Zone and riots of 1964, and the military coup of 1968 impacted young Blades’s consciousness and artistry. Afro-Caribbean music of the 1970–80s, the Nueva Canción movement of the 1960–70s, and regional political events shaped his songs, which search for an urban sound and tell everyday life stories. His musical career started in Panama, performing with local bands while attending Law School. In 1969, Blades traveled to New York, when his university closed temporarily as a consequence of political instability. After recording From Panamá to New York: Pete Rodríguez Presents Rubén Blades, he returned to Panama and graduated in 1972. Opposed to the military regime, Blades moved back to New York, debuted with Ray Barretto in ...
(b Detroit, MI, Feb 16, 1935; d South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jan 5, 1998). American singer, composer, producer, actor, and politician. Bono began his career as a composer; one of his first songs, “Things You Do To Me,” was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957–8. He eventually made contact with Phil Spector, with whom he worked closely for several years. One of his first successes came in 1963, when his song “Needles and Pins” (co-written with Jack Nitzsche) was recorded by Jackie DeShannon and reached number one on the charts in Canada. The height of his musical career came in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the duo Sonny and Cher. He wrote, produced, and performed on many of their hits, including “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.” Success with Cher, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1975, led to many appearances on television, including ...
[Charles Eugene ]
(b June 1, 1934, Jacksonville, FL). American singer, actor, and author. He is best known for his success during the 1950s and 60s, when he delivered old-fashioned sounds with a wholesome image and was seen a safe antidote to the African American artists who were performing R&B and rock ’n’ roll. His success was due in part to his choice to cover many of their songs in his own fashion. These were targeted specifically to middle-class white teenagers and resulted in 38 top 40 hits. Boone began recording in 1954 for Republic Records, where he covered music by Fats Domino, Little Richard, Nat “King” Cole, and the El Dorados. Second only to Elvis Presley in terms of album sales during the 1950s, he branched out as an actor, appearing on television in “Arthur Godfrey and his Friends” and “Ozark Jubilee.” From 1957 he hosted his own program, “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom,” in which he served as a spokesman for the car company and pitched his music. Among his most popular hits are “Ain’t that a Shame” (...
(b Sakhalin, Russia, July 11, 1920; d New York, NY, Oct 10, 1985). American actor, singer, and photographer of Russian birth. He spent his early childhood in China and was brought up in Paris, where he sang in clubs before moving to the United States. He was noted for his deep, rich voice and strong stage presence. His Broadway debut came in the musical Lute Song with Mary Martin in 1946, but his best-known character was the King of Siam in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I (1951), for which he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor. He also played the King in the 1956 film version, which won him an Oscar. Brynner shaved his head for this character and baldness became one of his personal trademarks. He received a Special Tony Award (1985) in honoring his 4525 performances in The King and I...
(b Helensburgh, April 2, 1890; d London, Oct 20, 1957). Scottish actor, producer and director. After a disastrous début as a comic in music hall in Glasgow, he danced in West End musicals until he understudied, then replaced, Jack Hulbert in Tonight’s the Night (1915–17), in which he sang Kern’s ‘They didn’t believe me’. He established himself as a leading man, particularly in the revues of André Charlot, then starred with Gertrude Lawrence in A to Z (1921), introducing Ivor Novello’s ‘And her mother came too’. He also scored success in New York in two editions of Charlot’s London Revue (1924 and 1925). An ambitious and astute businessman, he produced Battling Butler (1922) as a vehicle for himself, and in 1926 brought Kern’s Sunny to the London Hippodrome, which became the home to a series of Buchanan productions. With Elsie Randolph he appeared in ...
(b New York, July 17, 1899; d Stanfordville, NY, March 30, 1986). American actor and performer in musical theater. Self-taught, he began performing in restaurants and poolrooms, singing and dancing for tips from patrons. After World War I, he began his professional career as a female impersonator and, after marriage, in a duo vaudeville act with his wife. In the late 1920s he found work on Broadway in plays and musicals. His appearance in Penny Arcade (1930) won him a ticket to Hollywood, along with fellow cast member Joan Blondell, where the play was filmed as Sinner’s Holiday (1930). Signed to a contract at Warner Brothers, Cagey went on to make more than sixty films in the next three decades. He became famous as the quintessential tough guy in gritty gangster movies, but he also appeared in light comedies, war movies, westerns, and, occasionally, musicals. As the star of ...