Ethel Waters

Actress + Vocalist
Born Oct 31, 1896

Ethel Waters was an American blues, jazz and gospel vocalist and actress. She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, although she began her career in the 1920s singing blues. Her best-known recordings includes, "Dinah", "Stormy Weather", "Taking a Chance on Love", "Heat Wave", "Supper Time", "Am I Blue?", and "Cabin in the Sky", as well as her version of the spiritual "His Eye Is on the Sparrow".… Read More

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1896 Birth Waters was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, on October 31, 1896, as a result of the rape of her teenaged mother, Louise Anderson (believed to have been 13 years old at the time, although some sources indicate she may have been slightly older), by John Waters, a pianist and family acquaintance from a mixed-race middle-class background. … Read More


1919 22 Years Old 1 More Event
…  Around 1919, Waters moved to Harlem and there became a celebrity performer in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
The jazz historian Rosetta Reitz pointed out that by the time Waters returned to Harlem in 1921, women blues singers were among the most powerful entertainers in the country.
1924 27 Years Old 1 More Event
In early 1924, Paramount bought the Black Swan label, and she stayed with Paramount through that year.
1925 28 Years Old She first recorded for Columbia Records in 1925, achieving a hit with "Dinah," which was voted a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.


1929 - 1932 3 More Events
1933 36 Years Old In 1933, Waters appeared a satirical all-black film, Rufus Jones for President, which featured the child performer Sammy Davis Jr. as Rufus Jones. … Read More
1934 37 Years Old She signed with Decca Records in late 1934 for only two sessions, as well as a single session in early 1938.
1935 38 Years Old She recorded for the specialty label Liberty Music Shop Records in 1935 and again in 1940.


1938 41 Years Old In 1938 and 1939, she recorded for Bluebird.
1942 45 Years Old MGM hired Lena Horne as the ingenue in the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, and Waters starred as Petunia in 1942, reprising her stage role of 1940. … Read More


1950 53 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1950, she won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for her performance opposite Julie Harris in the play The Member of the Wedding.
1952 55 Years Old Waters and Harris reprised their roles in the 1952 film version, Member of the Wedding.


1957 60 Years Old 1 More Event
She later guest-starred in 1957 and 1959 on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.
1973 76 Years Old Three recordings by Waters were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a special Grammy Award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old and have "qualitative or historical significance." … Read More
1977 81 Years Old Waters died on September 1, 1977, aged 80, from uterine cancer, kidney failure, and other ailments, in Chatsworth, California. … Read More
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