From Publishers Weekly
In this powerful biography, Bogle recovers the rich fullness of singer Ethel Waters's life (1896–1977). In vivid though often exhausting detail, Bogle traces Waters's rise from the poverty of her surroundings in Chester, Pa., through her early musical successes in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s to her film and Broadway career and her later religious conversion as her health declined. Waters started singing very early, and worked the clubs and chitlin' circuit with ribald and sexy songs; she soon made her name as both black and white audiences flocked to hear her sing songs such as "Am I Blue?," "Stormy Weather," and "Shake That Thing" in Harlem clubs. As Bogle notes, Waters's records helped to create a new record-buying public, and she ushered in a style of popular singing that later singers like Diana Ross would try to imitate. Bogle chronicles her intimate relationships with both men and women as well as her stormy relationships with other artists, like Josephine Baker and Lena Horne. Bogle's thorough and unflinchingly honest look at Waters's brilliant and flawed life will undoubtedly be the definitive biography of this great woman. (Feb.)
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*Starred Review* Waters� career spanned seven decades, from vaudeville to Harlem nightclubs, from Broadway to Hollywood. Bogle, author of several biographies of black entertainers, including the best-selling Dorothy Dandridge (1997), offers a penetrating look at a woman of massive talent and determination. Waters grew up mostly in Chester, Pennsylvania, adopting a wandering life that suited her desire to flee her difficult past, poverty, hard family life, and early, failed marriage. In the early 1920s, she was among the first black performers in Harlem whom white patrons came to see. She began recording in the 1920s and �30s and moved from blues to pop; among her hits were �Stormy Weather� and �Heat Wave.� Her talent for singing, dancing, and acting led her to cross paths with Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Count Basie, Josephine Baker, Elia Kazan, Darryl F. Zanuck, Sammy Davis Jr., Harry Belafonte, and others. Her best-known roles were in the film The Member of the Wedding and the play Mamba�s Daughters.Bogle chronicles her career ups and downs and her tempestuous relationships with a series of husbands and lovers, male and female, as she struggled with racism and sexism and her own complex personality as a woman known to be both profane and pious. --Vanessa Bush