Sarah Vaughan, Black American jazz singer known affectionately as “the Divine One,” dies of cancer in San Fernando Valley, California, at age sixty-six.
1990 (Apr 4)
Sarah Vaughan, Black American jazz singer known affectionately as "the Divine One," died of cancer in San Fernando Valley, California, at age sixty-six. Vaughan was born on March 27, 1924 in Newark, New Jersey, to Asbury, a carpenter and amateur guitarist, and Ada Vaughan, a laundry worker and choir singer. Sarah joined a Baptist church choir as a child and the gospel influence remained with her throughout her career. She occasionally included a version of "The Lord's Prayer" in her performances. Ada Vaughan had wanted her daughter to pursue a career in classical music, and sent her to weekly organ and piano lessons, but young Sarah soon turned to a different path. At age eighteen, she won a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York, with a rendition of "Body and Soul." She was soon singing and playing piano with the Earl Hines Band and later toured with Billy Eckstine. Vaughan began a solo career in the 1940s. Between 1940 and her death, she performed before jazz audiences throughout the nation and recorded at least three Top 10 pop singles, including "Broken-Hearted Melody," which sold more than a million records. Other notable recordings included "Misty, The Divine Sarah Vaughan, Gerson Live and Lover. Although Vaughan "did not swing as effortlessly as Ella Fitzgerald," according to Bo Emerson, music critic of the Atlanta Constitution, "nor bring to bear Billie Holiday's intensity, the physical pleasure of her voice set her apart from most vocalists in any discipline." "She had the kind of voice that comes along once in a hundred years, once in a lifetime, maybe once in a thousand years," remarked jazz saxophonist and "elder statesman" Benny Carter. At the 1989 Grammy Award ceremonies, Vaughan received a Lifetime Achievement Award.