Born in Alabama but raised in Chicago,
(real name Ruth Lee Jones), the profane counterpart to Mahalia Jackson,
worked out a charismatic and thundering synthesis of gospel, blues, jazz and
pop singing, a dramatic monologue venting her existential neurosis that forged
the archetype for the "soul ballad".
After moving from Alabama to Chicago in 1927, she became a gospel singer in
a female choir and a jazz singer in Lionel Hampton's big band for
Salty Papa Blues (1944),
Leonard Feather's Evil Gal Blues (1944) and
Blowtop Blues (1945).
Capable of turning any melody into a show of acrobatic melisma,
she dominated the charts with an eclectic repertory that included
Am I Asking Too Much (1948),
Baby Get Lost (1949),
Long John Blues (1949),
Trouble In Mind (1952),
Teach Me Tonight (1954),
Maria Grever's Latin-tinged What a Difference a Day Makes (1959),
This Bitter Earth (1960).
The "evil gal" died at 39 in 1963 of an overdose of alcohol and dietary pills.
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