THE SATURDAY MORNING SONG CHRONICLES - PAGE 30
-- Paul B Allen III: November 30, 2019
You have, no doubt, heard of Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald, but have you ever heard of Hazel Scott? Most of us have not, and the reasons for that are appalling.
Hazel was a pianist, a child prodigy, and as a child, she was accepted into Julliard, which is one of the most prestigious and exclusive musical programs in the entire world. Julliard is nearly impossible to get into, and only the crème de la crème are allowed to become students there. The age limit for admittance into this school is sixteen years old. But Hazel was so phenomenal that when she auditioned for the powers that be at the school, they worked things out for her to become a student when she was only eight years old.
At just nineteen years old, Hazel become the toast of New York and the world. People gathered at her expensive home just to hang out with this extraordinary young woman. Her dear and personal friends included the likes of Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Frank Sinatra, Billy Holiday, Lena Horne, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Hazel became so popular as a musician, that Hollywood came knocking at her door. At a time when female African American artists were only given roles as maids, servants or prostitutes, Hazel had it written into her contract that she would only appear as herself, “Hazel Scott,” and that she would be chauffeured in a limo to and from the movie locations, and that she could wear the clothing she wanted to wear in every role. She was so popular that Hollywood acquiesced, and Hazel went on to make five movies.
And, before there was Oprah, there was Hazel Scott, the first African American woman to host her own regularly scheduled TV show.
As a recording artist, Hazel was world-renowned, and she refused to play for segregated audiences, period. If she got to a venue that previously claimed their audiences were not segregated, and she could see that they were, she would instantly turn around and leave the venue, never to return.
So, at the height of her popularity, because Hazel was fighting the stereotypes of Hollywood, and because she was a woman who actively took a stand against the rampant racism of the day, in essence, refusing to “play the game,” she was accused of being a Communist and she was blackballed in America. So, the woman who was every bit as popular as Billie Holiday, or Ella Fitzgerald, her contemporaries, dropped from sight in America and her name has very nearly been erased in this country.
However, she moved to France and took Europe by storm.
Hazel, even as a teenager, was a proud black woman who stood up for herself and for all other black women. She became a fearless advocate of civil rights and this was even before Martin Luther King had come into full effect as a leader.
I have only one video for you today. It is a video entitled, “What Ever Became of Hazel Scott?” This video showcases her immense musical talent and succinctly sheds light on one of the most gifted, powerful, and talented young women who has ever walked this planet. When you see her story, I trust that you will be as inspired by her as I have been.
See you next week for another Saturday Morning Song Chronicles.
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