Date Posted: 2012-06-03
Vocalist Carrie Smith, 86, died of cancer May 20 at the Booth Actors' Home, Englewood, NJ. She was a classic late bloomer, though she made an appearance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival with the Greater Harvest Baptist Church Choir. Smith's star began to rise in the late 60's when she toured with "Big" Tiny Little's revue; later on she worked with Tyree Glenn and the World's Greatest Jazz Band. She was a beneficiary of the jazz repertory movement beginning in the 1960s, culminating in a two-year run on Broadway in Black and Blue (1989-91).
Smith was an assured singer with a good voice and great time. She specialized in the music of Bessie Smith, and toured very successfully in Europe, where she had a large following. She made a number of recordings, including an excellent set with Art Hodes ( Jazzology JCD-384).
Smith was born in Ft. Gaines, GA in 1925. Her mother brought her to Newark when she was relatively young; she was raised by relatives while her mother became involved in the religious cult run by Father Divine. She learned music in the church and developed enough as a soloist that she was able to perform a solo concert at Town Hall in 1961. She created great ambiguity over her age- she normally gave her birth year as 1941, successfully shaving 16 years off her age for many years.
Though she was no relation to Bessie Smith, she kept her memory alive with successful performances all over the world for many years.