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Article

Susan McClary

(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....

Article

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 ...

Article

Josephine Wright

(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 (...

Article

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....

Article

Jonas Westover

[Salvatore Phillip]

(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 ...

Article

Scott Warfield

(b Yonkers, NY, April 20, 1935; d Chicago, IL, Nov 8, 1988). American composer, lyricist, writer, and actor. After graduation from Syracuse University, Casey taught in New York City schools before moving to Chicago in the early 1960s, where he met Jim Jacobs at the Chicago Stage Guild. The two collaborated on a parody of high school students in the 1950s, which was produced in 1971 in Chicago. Casey and Jacobs then moved to New York to rewrite the play, composing a new score with a faux rock ’n’ roll sound. Grease opened off-Broadway in 1972, before moving later that year to Broadway. Although never a favorite of critics, Grease was commercially successful and closed in 1980 with the then-longest run in Broadway’s history (3388 performances). Its 1994 production was at the time the longest run of a revival (1503 performances), and a motion picture version and sequel were also profitable. Casey’s papers, archived in the Chicago Theatre Collection at the Chicago Public Library, include materials for perhaps a dozen other shows, none of which was ever produced....

Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Paul R. Laird

[Cohen, Elizabeth ]

(b New York, NY, May 3, 1917; d New York, NY, Nov 23, 2006). American librettist, lyricist, and actor. She had a lifelong writing partnership with adolph Green (1914–2002). They began their professional careers as members of the Revuers, performing satirical shows in New York nightclubs. Comden and Green wrote most of the group’s sketches. Their collaboration, which usually included creating a show’s lyrics and book, became firmly established with their first musical for Broadway, On the Town (1944, with music by Leonard Bernstein), in which they also performed. They worked again with Bernstein on Wonderful Town (1953), and wrote several shows with Jule Styne: Two on the Aisle (1951), Peter Pan (1954), Bells Are Ringing (1956), Say Darling (1958), Do Re Mi (1960), Subways Are for Sleeping (1961), Fade Out—Fade In...

Article

J. Ryan Bodiford

(b New York, NY, July 30, 1971). American singer, composer, actor, and activist of Puerto Rican descent. Known to his fans as the King of Merengue, he has achieved international recognition for his self-styled brand of urban merengue fusion, which incorporates influences from Latin American genres like samba, salsa, and bomba, while also employing slick pop production techniques and hip-hop aesthetics. Romantic lyrical sentiments and attention to fashion further characterize his professional approach.

Crespo was raised primarily in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. His career began when he was 17 when he joined the Willie Berríos Orchestra in San Juan; however, his major breakthrough came in 1995 when he joined the established Puerto Rican merengue group, Manía. Helping to infuse Manía’s sound with more of a hip-hop edge, Crespo wrote two of the group’s biggest hits, “Linda eh” and “Ojitos bellos.” After three years gaining recognition with the group, he went solo in ...

Article

Ellen Marie Peck

(b New York, NY, Jan 28, 1880; d New York, Jan 4, 1928). American lyricist, librettist, and actress. Born into a theatrical family, she spent her entire life in the theater. A meticulous actress, Donnelly was particularly known for her ability to interpret a role with depth and sensitivity at a rather young age, as she demonstrated with title roles in Candida (1903) and Madame X (1909). However, chronic illness and years of touring took an early toll on Donnelly, forcing her to transition to a writing career in her late 30s. In 1916 Donnelly penned the libretto for an Americanized German operetta, Flora Bella. She soon teamed up with composer sigmund Romberg , with whom she wrote some of the most successful operettas of the 1920s. Donnelly and Romberg enjoyed a close friendship and a symbiotic collaborative process, which lay behind the overwhelming success of ...

Article

Holly George-Warren

[Smith, Lucille Wood; Smith (Fox), Frances Octavia]

(b Uvalde, TX, Oct 31, 1912; d Apple Valley, CA, Feb 7, 2001). American Western-music and popular singer-songwriter and actor. As Frances Fox, the name used in her first marriage, she began singing jazz, blues, and pop tunes on radio stations in Memphis in 1929. In May 1935 she took the stage name Dale Evans as staff vocalist at WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky. She moved to WFFA in Dallas, and by 1940 she was singing with the Anson Weeks Orchestra in Chicago, where she joined the CBS affiliate station WBBM. In 1941 Evans signed with 20th-Century Fox, playing bit parts in Hollywood musicals. She became a vocalist on several national radio shows, including “The Chase and Sanborn Hour” (1941), “The Jack Carson Show” (1944), and “The Camel Caravan” (1945). In 1943 she signed with Republic and, the following year, co-starred with roy Rogers, whom she married in ...

Article

Ronald J. Zank

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 6, 1954). American performer, playwright and librettist. Fierstein grew up in New York and worked as an actor; he also pursued his interest in painting and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He was both lead actor and playwright for Torch Song Trilogy, which originated off-off Broadway before transferring to off-Broadway and finally to Broadway (1982). He wrote the libretto for the musical adaptation of the French play and film La Cage Aux Folles (1983, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman), about a gay couple dealing with their son’s marriage into a conservative family. Fierstein also crafted the book for the short-lived Legs Diamond, a production that featured the songs and performance of Peter Allen as the title gangster. As a performer Fierstein originated the role of plus-sized mother Edna Turnblad in the musical ...

Article

(b Los Herreras, Nuevo León, México Dec 16, 1921; d Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, Sept 1, 2003). Mexican actor, singer, songwriter, and film director. Eulalio “Piporro” González Ramírez is best known for developing an idiosyncratic style of parodying Northern Mexican, or norteño, identity, lifestyle, and language through music and comedic acting for radio, stage, and film. His career spanned 60 years. He began as a newspaper reporter and radio personality in Monterrey and in US-Mexico border towns when he landed a role on the radio comedy, Ahí viene Martín Corona (Here Comes Martín Corona) produced in México City and starring the popular singer and actor Pedro Infante. At age 28, he played Infante’s elderly sidekick in 19th-century northern México where his bumbling character, “Piporro,” helped solve conflicts and dustups in local ranch life. The show’s success led to the 1951 film of the same name starring González and Infante. González enjoyed countless roles as “Piporro” in classic ...

Article

(b New York, NY, Dec 2, 1914; d New York, NY, Oct 24, 2002). American lyricist, librettist, and actor. He sustained a lifelong writing partnership with Betty Comden. Among their joint works were the musicals Wonderful Town (1953) and Bells Are Ringing (1956), and the film script ...

Article

Warren Fields

(Joseph)

(b Belews Creek, NC, July 9, 1901; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 18, 2000).

American arranger, choral conductor, and actor. He grew up in Homestead, Pennsylvania, where he sang in school and church choirs. After two years of study at Massachusetts Agricultural College he transferred to Tufts University where he graduated with a music degree in 1929. In search of opportunities to sing professionally, he went to New York where he joined the Hall Johnson Choir in 1931. From that point forward, his career progressed with remarkable consistency in three streams. By the mid-1930s, he had established himself as a skillful arranger and conductor of choral music. In the latter capacity he travelled extensively in the United States and abroad until well into his nineties. His published arrangements are characterized by lively, repetitive, and often syncopated rhythms, fundamental harmonies with well-spaced modulations, and colorful melodies that are always true to their ethnic origins. Among the best known of more than ninety such works are ...

Article

Tamar Barzel

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 9, 1952). American vocalist, composer, librettist, free-improviser, and performance artist. She studied theater and dance at the High School of Performing Arts, took classical voice and theory lessons at the Manhattan School of Music, and served an apprenticeship with jazz artists in New York and Europe. At the age of 18 she joined the San Francisco Actors Workshop, where, influenced by Antonin Artaud and Jerzy Grotowski, she pursued an interest in sound-as-theater. She has created site-specific works—including The Passions of Natasha, Nokiko, Nina, Nicole and Norma, which explored the erotic lives of five women—and personal homages such as her virtual duet, For Jerry. Her autobiographical suite, O Little Town of East New York, reveals many of her key creative concerns, including a fascination with the nuances of cultural and personal difference. Hirsch’s narratives unfold in kaleidoscopic flashes, leaping among sonically embodied characters, glossolalia, and quotations—real and ersatz—from myriad musical sources. She performs with live instrumentalists and over pre-recorded accompaniments, using multiple microphones programmed with contrasting effects, real-time electronic processing, and video projection. ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Elizabeth Holzman ]

(b Cincinnati, OH, May 23, 1904; d Stamford, CT, June 18, 1971). American actress, singer, composer, and lyricist. Holman completed her college education before moving to New York where she began her theatrical career in 1924. Encouraged by the critic Channing Pollock, she appeared in revues, including the Garrick Gaieties (1925) and Merry-Go-Round (1927). Her most successful performance came in 1929 with The Little Show, where she introduced the song “Moanin’ Low” (by Ralph Rainger). This blues number became her signature tune, although she had another hit in Three’s a Crowd (1930) with “Body and Soul” (Heyman, Sour/Green). She appeared in other revues during the 1930s, including Revenge with Music (1934), and starred in Cole Porter’s You Never Know (1938). Holman produced her own one-woman show, Blues, Ballads, and Sin-Songs, in 1954. She took this opportunity to showcase her own compositions, including “Good Morning Blues” and “House of the Rising Sun.” Her music was deeply rooted in African American idioms, a connection she celebrated through her support of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Holman’s performances are preserved on 25 sides recorded for Brunswick from ...

Article

Sandra Jean Graham

(b Jacksonville, FL, Aug 11, 1873; d New York, NY, Nov 11, 1954). American composer, lyricist, vocalist, actor, theatrical director, and educator, brother of james weldon Johnson . He was born to James Johnson, a freeman from Virginia, and Helen Louise [née Dillett] Johnson, born free in Nassau, the Bahamas. His mother, a trained singer and educator, began teaching Johnson piano when he was four. From 1890 to 1896 Johnson studied music at the New England Conservatory. He then performed in John W. Isham’s Oriental America, which whetted his appetite for theater. After returning to Jacksonville (spring 1897), he taught music privately and was supervisor of music for Jacksonville public schools (1896–9). He was also choirmaster and organist at a large Baptist church and taught music at the Baptist Academy. Johnson’s earliest compositions, with his brother as lyricist, date from this time.

In summer 1899 the Johnson brothers went to New York hoping to get their operetta ...

Article

Robert B. Winans

[Toney, Lemuel Gordon ]

(b Richmond, VA, Oct 17, 1870; d New York, NY, July 29, 1941). American minstrel and vaudeville performer and composer. He served in the army from 1895 to 1898. He also attempted to become a professional baseball player in Baltimore, and it is said that he became a minstrel after George H. Primrose saw him entertaining the other players in the clubhouse, having failed to make the team. He then went to work for Primrose and West’s Minstrels, where he changed his name and soon became a star performer. He played in vaudeville until that form declined in the late 1920s, then occasionally appeared in nightclubs; he also performed in a number of Broadway shows. Leonard wrote many of his own songs, including his first hit “Just because she Made them Goo-goo Eyes,” “Roll dem boly boly eyes,” “I lost my Mandy,” and his most famous song, “Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider” (...

Article

Kathleen Hudson

(b Klein, TX, Nov 1, 1957). American songwriter, musician, and actor. Known for quirky stories, strong language, a wry tone, gentle and profound themes, and interesting music, Lyle Lovett has been influenced by fellow Texas songwriters Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zandt. His voice and appearance have created a distinctive image, but his reputation stands on the foundation of his songwriting.

Lovett grew up on a horse ranch in a suburb of Houston, graduating from Texas A&M University in 1982 with a degree in journalism and German. There, he met singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen, with whom he co-wrote “Front Porch Song” while both were playing in College Station’s Front Porch Band. After a stint playing music and studying in Germany, he went to Nashville, where, with the support of Guy Clark, he was signed to a recording contract with MCA/Curb Records. They released his self-titled debut album in ...