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Dee Dee Bridgewater

Singer and actress Dee Dee Bridgewater was born on May 27, 1950 in Memphis, Tennessee. Raised in Flint, Michigan, Bridgewater was exposed early to jazz music; her father, Matthew Garrett, was a jazz trumpeter and teacher at Manassas High School. After high school, Bridgewater attended Michigan State University before transferring to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1969, she toured the Soviet Union with the University of Illinois Big Band.

In 1970, Bridgewater met and married trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and moved to New York City. She sang lead vocals for the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in the early 1970s, and appeared in the Broadway musical The Wiz from 1974 to 1976. Bridgewater also released her first album in 1974, entitled Afro Blue. Then, after touring France in 1984 with the musical Sophisticated Ladies, she moved to Paris in 1986 and acted in the show Lady Day. Bridgewater also formed her own backup group around this time and performed at the Sanremo Song Festival in Italy and the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990. Four years later, she collaborated with Horace Silver and released the album Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver. She then released a tribute album, entitled Dear Ella, in 1997, and the record Live at Yoshi’s in 1998. Subsequent albums included This is New (2002); J'ai Deux Amours (2005); Red Earth (2007); and Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee Bridgewater (2010). She has also performed with the Terence Blanchard Quintet at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and opened the Shanghai JZ Jazz Festival in 2009. Bridgewater also appeared regularly at other music festivals and on numerous television shows, radio programs, and in feature films. She owns a production company and record label, and has hosted NPR’s syndicated radio show JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater since 2001. In addition, Bridgewater served as a United Nations Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Bridgewater has received seven Grammy Award nominations and won three. She also won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in The Wiz. Bridgewater was the first American to be inducted to the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie and has received the Award of Arts and Letters in France, as well as the country’s 1998 top honor, Victoire de la Musique.

Dee Dee Bridgewater was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 10, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.254

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/10/2014

Last Name

Bridgewater

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Michigan State University

Clark Elementary School

St. Matthew Catholic School

Southwestern Classical Academy

First Name

Dee Dee

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

BRI08

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Any Island

Favorite Quote

Awesome Sauce.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/27/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

USA

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Singer and actress Dee Dee Bridgewater (1950 - ) was a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer, as well as a Tony Award-winning stage actress, and hosted NPR’s JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Employment

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra

NPR

DDB Productions, Inc.

DDB Records

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dee Dee Bridgewater's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her mother's education and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her father's education and musical talent

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about how her parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her relationship with her sister

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers the St. Matthews Catholic School in Flint, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her early musical influences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her teenage personality

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her high school education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater reflects upon the role of religion in her upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her artistic development

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her experiences of sexual abuse in the Catholic church

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her experiences of childhood sexual abuse

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers forming The Irisdescents

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about the prevalence of childhood molestation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her college aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers the development of her political consciousness

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her college counseling

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her activism with the Black Panther Party

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her early singing performances

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers meeting her first husband, Cecil Bridgewater

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers obtaining an illegal abortion

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls transferring to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls joining the Jazz Big Band at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers touring the Soviet Union with the Jazz Big Band

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about jazz music in the Soviet Union

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers Horace Silver

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her collaboration with Horace Silver

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes the jazz fusion scene in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her development as a musician

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her early albums

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her role in 'The Wiz,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her role in 'The Wiz,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about the contention over casting for 'The Wiz' movie

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her relationship with Gilbert Moses

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers the critical acclaim for her album, 'Dee Dee Bridgewater'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater reflects upon her experiences performing in 'The Wiz'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her album, 'Just Family'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her television appearances

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her collaboration with Horace Silver
Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her role in 'The Wiz,' pt. 1
Transcript
So, imagine his surprise when I called him in 1995 and said, "Horace [Horace Silver], I'm gonna do an album of your music ['Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver']." He was stunned, he said, "But Dee [HistoryMaker Dee Dee Bridgewater], I mean after, after I threw you off the stage all those years ago, you wanna do it with me?" I said, "I love your music, I love your music." So, when I picked the songs he, he said, "Well, then I will write all the lyrics." And some of the songs had lyrics that had been (simultaneous)-- (Simultaneous) So, you wrote the lyrics?$$Horace wrote, (unclear)--$$Horace said he'd write all the lyrics.$$--said he would write all the lyrics for the songs that I selected, and he had, had some kind of publishing conflict with Jon Hendricks who had written a lot of lyrics on his songs, and their, their agreement can--had come up so he was getting all his publishing back and so he said he would write all the lyrics for me.$$'Cause he had some songs that had lyrics like the "Song for My Father" and then others that didn't have any.$$Yep.$$As of yet.$$He wrote--$$Yeah.$$--all the lyrics, yep for that album and then he agreed, I asked him if he would perform on the album and Horace never guested on anyone's albums. And he did, I flew him to Paris [France], I recorded the album in Paris and he came.$$That was "Permit Me to Introduce You to Yourself" (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) "You to Yourself."$$Did he write those lyrics--$$Yes.$$--especially for you?$$No, that he had (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Were they already--$$--written for--he did this trilogy called The United States of Mind' and that, that was on one of those albums. It was on the first album. So, he'd written those lyrics already.$$Okay, all right.$$But like "Pretty Eyes" well he rewrote the lyrics, they were famous lyrics that had been written by Jon Hendricks, so rewrote the lyrics on, on "Song for My Father" on "Doodlin'" then he wrote me the lyrics for everything else. "Saint Vitus Dance," "Soulville," "Nica's Dream," "Filthy McNasty," "The Jody Grind;" all those songs, every song on that album.$$Okay.$$Those are all Horace Silver lyrics and as a result of that album project, if you look at Horace's CDs [compact discs] that came after, he wrote lyrics on many of the songs and put them in the, the CD sleeves. So, I'm very proud that I initiated that.$$We are all grateful.$$Well, I wanted to at that time give singers other material to choose from other than the 'American Songbooks' ['Great American Songbook'] and I wanted him to be able to reap the rewards while he was alive.$Now you were married to Cecil Bridgewater for two years?$$Four and a half.$$Four and a half, okay, so, you're still married when you produce 'Afro Blue' and--$$Yes.$$Okay.$$He did that horrible contract, Cecil is a horrible negotiator for a contract.$$So you didn't (unclear) (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) He gave our rights away.$$Oh.$$For four thousand dollars, we were paid four thousand dollars for that, and that's it.$$So, now at some point here, as we approach 1975, now you appeared on a Norman Connors album 'Love from the Sun'?$$Um-hm.$$On Buddah Records and at some point, you auditioned for--$$'The Wiz.'$$The Broadway production of 'The Wiz,' right.$$I auditioned for 'The Wiz'--let me get this straight 'cause we started the rehearsals in '74 [1974]. So, it was like I did a--I just went to a cattle call audition in '73 [1973], seems like it was in the summer of '73 [1973] and I got a call back and I went back and I just sang. I don't remember what I sang but it was certainly jazz. Then the band, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis [The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra] had a tour, a summer tour and we were going to Europe and I remember we came back in August. So, this is like two months later or something and we come back and I get a call to come and audition again, and I'm like, this is weird, for the director and the director is Gilbert Moses. So, I go and, and I, I audition and then the, he called he said he wants to see me and he wants to spend some time with me. So, I go for my fourth audition and that audition he made me do some improvisational stuff. He made me run around this rehearsal room with my arms dangling and shouting at the top of my voice so I could get relaxed and I could--I don't know, release or whatever that thing was.$$This is Free Southern Theater style (unclear) (laughter).$$Gilbert was a genius, Gilbert was a--he really was a genius but he had demons. He had really, really, really, really major demons but I didn't know that at the time, and he did this thing called transformation where we had to improvise like a scene and I had to like create dialogue and he'd throw dialogue at me and then he'd go, "Transformation," and then I had to become another character, doing something else. That was a fun--that was fun. Gilbert was a great, great actor's director. He really, really was. So, after that audition he gave me the role of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South which was a very big role when I first got it. During the tryouts, I don't know, maybe because I was so slender and I had you know, I was so well endowed upstairs, every straight man involved in that show hit on me and I'm married to Cecil. I'm trying to get a divorce from Cecil, he won't give me a divorce. I've already tried to embarrass him by having an affair with a trumpet player, 'cause I just love my trumpets, and I started having an affair with, with Gilbert while we're doing the tryouts. Then the man who was behind 20th Century Fox [Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation] who was a liaison who had given some of the funding to Ken Harper [Kenneth Harper], the producer, decided that he wanted me to be his mistress and he would send notes. He'd come to see the show periodically and he would send notes to me by the ushers and that he wanted to meet me and so I'd go out and I'd be polite, and you know go out in my robe and my makeup half done you know, for the show and he'd be sitting in the theater and you know and he was like you know, I, I--he was very straightforward. "I want you to be my mistress," but I was like, "I'm sorry, I'm with someone and I don't do that, and you're married. I'm sorry. I'm flattered," you know, I tried everything I could think of. "So flattered, but oh, I, I, oh, no that's too scary." So, he came to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] and this is just before--I think this is about a month, 'cause were out six weeks, I mean six weeks, we were out six months because then we did tryouts you know where they would fix everything before you got to Broadway, and I think we were about a month out from coming back into New York [New York] and it was in Philadelphia and he came and he sent Nasha [ph.] back and so I come out and he says, "You will be my mistress," and I said, "I'm sorry, if you were the last man on this earth, I would not sleep with you. I'm in a relationship, I am not going to do it." And the next day Gilbert was fired.