Betty “BeBop” Carter: A Women’s History Month Tribute

This Women’s History Month, I’d like to celebrate the life and ingenuity of jazz singer/songwriter Betty Carter.

A musical force of nature, Carter was an inventive musician and bandleader. She also mentored generations of younger musicians.

Born Lillie Mae Jones in 1929, Carter grew up in Detroit. Early in her career she was influenced by and performed with saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, eventually touring with the band of vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. Because of her ability to improvise and scat sing, Hampton called her Betty “BeBop” – a nickname that stuck.

Carter went onto to perform with Ray Charles before charting her own course by leading her own bands and launching a successful record label.

Betty Carter was one fearless – inspired and talented – musician/business woman!

Before her death in 1998, she would inspire a host of band members including pianists Mulgrew Miller and Cyrus Chestnut, bassists Curtis Lundy and Buster Williams and drummers Lewis Nash and Jack DeJohnette.  And Carter influenced the careers of many other aspiring young jazz musicians.

So click here to hear my piece about Betty Carter’s incredible musical journey. This documentary was an episode in NPR’s Jazz Profiles series, an award winning weekly program hosted by another phenomenal singer, Nancy Wilson.


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