Eartha Kitt, a sultry singer, dancer and actress who rose from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality, has died, a family spokesman said. She was 81.
Andrew Freedman said Kitt, who was recently treated at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, died Thursday in Connecticut of colon cancer.
Those are the facts of Ms Kitts death…….But he facts don’t even begin to tell her STORY. Here let me add my two-cents worth before you read the rest. I am 59 years of age. When Eartha dies she was 81 and that means she was a full TWELVE years older than me. I discovered her at the sam time that he world did. Only, I was 16 and she was 25……..GROWN……ACCOMPLISHED……and BLACK!
She became an instant part of that cadre of women who would go on to define me as a Black Man SMITTEN. To be sure she was one of many. Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Eartha all had a profound effect on this impressionable teenage boy with RAGING HARMONES!. Dorothy was quite BEAUTIFUL, Lena Horne was just as BEAUTIFUL…..BUT EARTHA was SEXY!!! Was she ever!!!
Many nights during that first Holiday season of “SANTA BABY” I lay dreaming of a sexual liaison with this icon of sexual passion and wanton desire. At exactly where I am starting this Tribute Concert! Somewhere between my second and third WET DREAM over her………OOPS DID I SAY THAT!
Excellent! If you don't mind, here's what I put together last week: If you want me to turn the music off let me know..
EARTHA KITT Name: Eartha Mae Keith Born: January 17, 1927 North, South Carolina, U.S. Died: December 25, 2008 (2 years to the day after James Brown) Eartha Kitt was a Diva, an
actress, singer, and cabaret star. She is best known for her role as Catwoman in
the 1960s TV series Batman, and for her 1953 Christmas song "Santa Baby." Orson
Welles once called her "the most exciting woman in the world."
In 1960, Kitt was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has
also received three Tony nominations, two Grammy nominations, and an Emmy win.
She was profiled on the December 31, 2007 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition.
Kitt's mother was Black Indian with Cherokee ancestry, and her father was
European-American. She was born out of wedlock in tiny North, South Carolina,
but jokes about the fact that many audiences assume her to be from somewhere
more exotic. Kitt now only slightly recalls her mother, who abandoned her to
relatives, and she never met her father. She had a very difficult childhood.
Kitt got her start as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company and made her film
debut with them in Casbah (1948). A talented singer with a distinctive voice,
her hits include "Let's Do It", "C'est si bon", "Just an Old Fashioned Girl", "Monotonous",
"Love for Sale", "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch", "Uska Dara", "Mink, Schmink",
"Under the Bridges of Paris", and her most recognizable hit, "Santa Baby." Kitt's
unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in the French language during her
years performing in Europe. She dabbled in other languages as well, which she
demonstrates with finesse in many of the live recordings of her cabaret
In 1950, Orson Welles gave her her first starring role, as Helen of Troy in his
staging of Dr. Faustus. A few years later, she was cast in the revue New Faces
of 1952 introducing "Monotonous", "C'est si bon" and "Santa Baby", three songs
with which she continues to be identified. In 1954, 20th Century-Fox filmed a
version of the revue simply titled New Faces. Welles and Kitt allegedly had a
torrid affair during her run in Shinbone Alley, which earned her the nickname by
Welles as "the most exciting woman in the world." In 1958, Kitt made her feature
film debut opposite Sidney Poitier in The Mark of the Hawk. Throughout the rest
of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt would work on and off in film, television and
on nightclub stages. In the late 1960s, television series Batman, she played
Catwoman in succession to Julie Newmar.
In 1964, Kitt helped open the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California.
In 1968, however, Kitt encountered a substantial professional setback after she
made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. It was falsely reported
that she made First Lady Lady Bird Johnson cry uncontrollably when in fact, the
First Lady replied very diplomatically. The public reaction to Kitt's statements
were much more extreme, both for and against her statements. Professionally
exiled from the U.S., she devoted her energies to overseas performances.
During that time cultural references to her grew, including outside the United
States, such as the well-known Monty Python sketch, "the cycling tour", where an
amnesiac believes he is first Clodagh Rogers, then Trotsky and finally Eartha
Kitt (while performing to an enthusiastic crowd in Moscow). She returned to New
York in a triumphant turn in the Broadway spectacle Timbuktu! (a version of the
perennial Kismet set in Africa) in 1978. In the musical, one song gives a 'recipe'
for mahoun, a preparation of cannabis, in which her sultry purring rendition of
the refrain "constantly stirring with a long wooden spoon" was distinctive.
In 1984, she returned to hit music with a disco song, Where Is My Man (UK #34);
the first certified Gold record of her career. Kitt found new audiences in
nightclubs across the country, including a whole new generation of gay male fans,
and she responded by frequently giving benefit performances in support of HIV/AIDS
organizations. Her 1989 follow-up hit "Cha-Cha Heels" (featuring Bronski Beat)
received a positive response from UK dance clubs and reached #32 in the UK
In the late 1990s she appeared as the Wicked Witch of the West in the North
American national touring company of The Wizard of Oz. In 2000, Kitt again
returned to Broadway in the short-lived run of Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild
Party opposite Mandy Patinkin and Toni Collette. Begininng in late 2000, she
starred as the Fairy Godmother in the National tour of Cinderella alongside
Deborah Gibson and then Jamie-Lynn Sigler. In 2003, she replaced Chita Rivera in
Nine. She reprised her role of the Fairy Godmother at a special engagement of
Cinderella which took place at Madison Square Gardens during the holiday season
One of her more unusual roles was as Kaa the python in a 1994 BBC Radio
adaptation of The Jungle Book. Kitt lent her distinctive voice to the role of
Yzma in Disney's The Emperor's New Groove and returned to the role in the
straight to video sequel Kronk's New Groove and the spin-off TV series The
Emperor's New School, for which she has won two Annie Awards for Voice Acting in
an Animated Television Production. She is currently doing other voiceover work
such as the voice of Queen Vexus on the animated TV series My Life as a Teenage
From October to early December, 2006, Kitt co-starred in the Off-Broadway
musical Mimi Le Duck. She also appeared in the 2007 independent film And Then
Came Love opposite Vanessa L. Williams. She will be missed.
I understand............Adeze! Her music had to fight a voice often desccribed as having too much "tremelo". Not everybodycouls appreciate that. But her sense of timing made her a natutal as an entertainer!
The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me").
As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.
The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created.
The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon).
If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) yahoo.com and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available.
Enjoy. "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
"I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
"Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
"If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)
Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.
Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay."
While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).
The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.