Black Entertainment : Mabel Mercer

Discussion in 'Black Entertainment' started by cherryblossom, Apr 20, 2011.

  1. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    Mabel Mercer (3 February 1900 – 20 April 1984) was an English-born cabaret singer who performed in the United States, Britain, and Europe with the greats in jazz and cabaret. She was a featured performer at Chez Bricktop in Paris, owned by the hostess Bricktop, and performed in such clubs as Le Ruban Bleu, Tony's, the RSVP, the Carlyle, the St. Regis Hotel, and eventually her own room, the Byline Club. Among those who frequently attended Mercer's shows was Frank Sinatra, who made no secret of his emulating her phrasing and story-telling techniques.


    Mercer was born in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England.[1] Her mother was a young, white English music hall performer, and her father was a black American jazz musician whom Mabel never knew. At age fourteen, she left her convent school in Manchester, and toured Britain and Europe with her aunt in vaudeville and music hall engagements.

    In 1928, she was an unknown member of the black chorus in the London production of Show Boat, but she had become the toast of Paris by the 1930s, with admirers who included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Cole Porter.

    When World War II broke out, she traveled to America to sing in the finest supper clubs in New York City. Her recording career began in 1942, with an album of selections from Porgy and Bess on the elite Liberty Music Shops label, featuring piano accompaniment by Cy Walter. Over the following decades, Mercer made many concert appearances across the U.S. In the late 1960s, she gave two concerts with Bobby Short at Town Hall in New York City.[1] Both were released by Atlantic Records: Mabel Mercer & Bobby Short at Town Hall, in 1968, (Atlantic SD 2-604) and Mabel Mercer & Bobby Short Second Town Hall Concert, in 1969 (Atlantic SD 2-605). In 1969, she made two appearances on the television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
    Her original and reissued albums are collector's items. Atlantic Records reissued four of her early LPs in a boxed set in 1975, in honor of her 75th birthday. She was awarded Stereo Review Magazine's first Award for Merit, for her lifetime achievement and for "outstanding contributions to the quality of American musical life."...

    ...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabel_Mercer
     
  2. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=40020321057


    Mabel Mercer - Singer
    by The Darker Side of the Rainbow on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at 10:49pm

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    b: 1900
    d: 1984

    Although she never achieved in her long lifetime the fame she so richly deserved, Mabel Mercer was one of the most respected singers of the mid-twentieth century, a most original stylist, and the toast of the New York cabaret scene.

    Her career, which spanned seven decades, brought her to early fame in Paris, where she mingled with some of the most extraordinary gay and lesbian figures of the day, and in her later years she was a much beloved icon of gay New York.

    ...After the end of World War I, Mercer settled in Paris, where she met the celebrated Ada "Bricktop" Smith, an American singer and cabaret proprietor whose patrons included Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Mercer based her career at Bricktop's until 1938, when she fled in anticipation of World War II and the feared German invasion.

    During her Paris years, Mercer became friends (and possibly more) with the notoriously eccentric lesbian heiress, speedboat racer, and womanizer Marion "Joe" Carstairs. Carstairs, who had settled in her own "kingdom"--Whale Cay, on an island in the Bahamas--paid Mercer's way across the Atlantic, fearing what the Nazis would do to the biracial singer.

    Mercer resided in the Bahamas until 1941, when she married Kelsey Pharr, an openly gay African-American musician, and obtained an entry visa from the United States government. The marriage was clearly one of convenience, as Mercer and Pharr never lived together and rarely saw each other; however, Mercer, as a devout Catholic, would not divorce Pharr, and they remained legally married, if in no other sense, until his death.

    Upon her arrival in New York, Mercer began a series of engagements in some of the city's most elegant supper clubs and cabarets; and, for the rest of her life, the metropolis was her sole venue. Here she became the particular favorite of gay men, who found in her a sympathetic interpreter of their lives and loves, even when those lives and loves had necessarily to remain mostly closeted.
    Mercer was a sophisticated interpreter of show tunes and standards, particularly those of Cole Porter and Noël Coward. Although often classified as a jazz singer, her style, which involved movement and gesture along with "proper" English-accented intonations, owed as much to the British music hall tradition into which she was born as it did to le jazz hot of 1920s Paris.

    Carstairs admired Mercer for being "ladylike," and this quality, along with her tremendous warmth and sly wit, made Mercer a completely unique talent. She considered each song a story to be narrated, not merely to be sung.

    Her interpretations of standard songs, such as Coward's "Sail Away" and "Mad about the Boy," frequently captured qualities within them that other interpreters might have missed, especially the pain and sadness, as well as the pleasures and joy, of the lives of gay men in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Mercer's recordings are few, and all date from later in her life. While those fortunate enough to have seen her perform live report that the recordings capture only a fraction of her appeal, much of which involved body language and audience interaction, the recordings nonetheless convey a joie de vivre and a personality not to be found elsewhere.

    Although Mercer performed well into her seventies, she increasingly preferred the privacy of her country estate in rural New York, where she gardened, created recipes that were often published, and lived with her many pets.

    She became an American citizen in 1952, and, in 1983, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to American Culture.

    She died quietly on April 20, 1984, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
     
  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    http://www.amazon.com/Midnight-At-Mabels-Mabel-Mercer/dp/0615113451


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    Midnight At Mabel's - The Mabel Mercer Story [Hardcover]
    Margaret Cheney (Author)



    From Library Journal
    Cheney (Tesla: A Man Out of Time) here chronicles biracial cabaret singer Mercer (1900-84) in a breezy style. Spanning her early years in England, her years as a rising teenage star in Paris at Bricktop's Club, and her efforts to break the color barrier in New York from 1940 on, this work delves into Mercer's complicated personal lifeDher marriage to musician Kelsey Pharr, long-time relationship with manager Harry Beard, and search for the father she never knew. Her social life was just as twisted: she mingled with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor but had to tolerate racial slurs from New York City taxi drivers. Mercer was a strong influence on singers such as Frank Sinatra and received accolades such as the National Medal of Freedom but, sadly, is less remembered today. James Haskins's Mabel Mercer: A Life (Welcome Rain, 2000. reprint), which shares with Cheney's work a variety of stories and quotes, is a more matter-of-fact alternative. Cheney's work is recommended for libraries collecting 20th-century popular music or black studies that do not own Haskins's volume.DBarry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs, Oxford, OH
    Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
     
  4. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    The Mabel Mercer Foundation

    http://www.mabelmercer.org/

    Created in 1985 as a not-for-profit arts organization, The Mabel Mercer Foundation serves to both perpetuate the memory and spirit of its legendary namesake and to stimulate and promote public interest in the fragile and endangered world of cabaret. Currently in its third decade, the Foundation and its efforts have been perhaps best summarized and recognized by a recent commendation from The Oakland Tribune: “Cabaret may not be thriving, but it is alive and well, thanks mainly to The Mabel Mercer Foundation and its support of wonderfully diverse talents.”
     
  5. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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