IN MEMORIAM: Diahann Carroll, Singer/Actress // Ginger Baker, Master Drummer
Diahann Carroll; born Carol Diann Johnson; July 17, 1935 – October 4, 2019) was an American actress, singer, model and activist. She rose to prominence in some of the earliest major studio films to feature black casts, including Carmen Jones (1954) and Porgy and Bess (1959). In 1962, Carroll won a Tony Award for best actress, a first for a black woman, for her role in the Broadway musical No Strings.
Her 1968 debut in Julia, the first series on American television to star a black woman in a non-stereotypical role, was a milestone both in her career and the medium. In the 1980s, she played the role of Dominique Deveraux, a mixed-race diva, in the prime time soap opera Dynasty. Carroll was the recipient of numerous stage and screen nominations and awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress In a Television Series in 1968. She received an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for the film Claudine (1974). She was also a breast cancer survivor and activist.
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Carroll’s big break came at age 18, when she appeared as a contestant on the DuMont Television Network program, Chance of a Lifetime, hosted by Dennis James. On the show, which aired January 8, 1954, she took the $1,000 top prize for a rendition of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein song, “Why Was I Born?” She went on to win the following four weeks. Engagements at Manhattan’s Café Society and Latin Quarter nightclubs soon followed.
Carroll’s film debut was a supporting role in Carmen Jones (1954), as a friend to the sultry lead character played by Dorothy Dandridge. That same year, she starred in the Broadway musical, House of Flowers. A few years later, she played Clara in the film version of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1959), but her character’s singing parts were dubbed by opera singer Loulie Jean Norman. The following year, Carroll made a guest appearance in the series Peter Gunn, in the episode “Sing a Song of Murder” (1960). In the next two years, she starred with Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman, and Joanne Woodward in the film Paris Blues (1961) and won the 1962 Tony Award for best actress (the first time for a black woman) for portraying Barbara Woodruff in the Samuel A. Taylor and Richard Rodgers musical No Strings. Twelve years later, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her starring role alongside James Earl Jones in the film Claudine (1974), which part had been written specifically for actress Diana Sands (who had made guest appearances on Julia as Carroll’s cousin Sara), but shortly before filming was to begin, learned she was terminally ill with cancer. Sands attempted to carry on with the role, but as filming began, she became too ill to continue and recommended her friend Carroll take over the role. Sands died in September 1973, before the film’s release in April 1974.
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Read Ms. Carroll’s biography here:
Editor: The Wikipedia bio barely mentions Ms. Carroll’s vocal artistry but she was a gifted singer as proved by her many albums and her show-biz career.
Diahann Carroll Sings Harold Arlen Songs (1957)
Best Beat Forward (1958)
The Persian Room Presents Diahann Carroll (1959)
Porgy and Bess (1959) (with the André Previn Trio)
The Magic of Diahann Carroll (with the André Previn Trio) (1960)
Fun Life (1961)
Modern Jazz Quartet — The Comedy (1962)
The Fabulous Diahann Carroll (1962)
You’re Adorable: Love Songs for Children (1967)
Nobody Sees Me Cry (1967)
Diahann Carroll (1974)
A Tribute to Ethel Waters (1978)
The Time of My Life (1997)
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Ginger Baker – Master Drummer
Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker (19 August 1939 – 6 October 2019) was an English drummer and a co-founder of the rock band Cream. His work in the 1960s and 1970s earned him the reputation of “rock’s first superstar drummer,” for a style that melded jazz and African rhythms and pioneered both jazz fusion and world music.
Baker began playing drums at age 15, and later took lessons from English jazz drummer Phil Seamen. In the 1960s he joined Blues Incorporated, where he met bassist Jack Bruce. The two clashed often, but would be rhythm section partners again in the Graham Bond Organisation and Cream, the latter of which Baker co-founded with Eric Clapton in 1966. Cream achieved worldwide success but lasted only until 1968, in part due to Baker’s and Bruce’s volatile relationship. After briefly working with Clapton in Blind Faith and leading Ginger Baker’s Air Force, Baker spent several years in the 1970s living and recording in Africa, often with Fela Kuti, in pursuit of his long-time interest in African music. Among Baker’s other collaborations are his work with Gary Moore, Masters of Reality, Public Image Ltd, Hawkwind, Atomic Rooster, Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and Ginger Baker’s Energy.
Baker’s drumming is regarded for its style, showmanship, and use of two bass drums instead of the conventional one. In his early days, he performed lengthy drum solos, most notably in the Cream song “Toad,” one of the earliest recorded examples in rock music. Baker was an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Cream in 1993, of the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2008, and of the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame in 2016. Baker was noted for his eccentric, often self-destructive lifestyle, and he struggled with heroin addiction for many years. He was married four times and fathered three children.