Photo by Ruth Morgan

GLORIA LYNNE 

Celebrated Jazz Vocalist

“I love romantic music. I think that’s been my forte. If the music and lyrics are married, I love it.”

—Gloria Lynne

“I’m glad I came along when I did,” says jazz diva Gloria Lynne, “because there were so many singers to guide you.” Born in 1931 at Harlem Hospital, she was a resident of Lenox Terrace for many years. Lynne’s first guide was her mother, who sang in the church choir. Lynne witnessed the great singers of her day at the Apollo Theater, where she was escorted at a very young age by her mother.

 

During her school years, she sang in plays, the glee club, and her church choir. Many people informed her she could really sing. “So I said, ‘If they’re telling the truth, then I’ll go to the Apollo,’” stated Lynne. She blew the audience away winning the historic Amateur Night contest in the early ‘50s with the song “Don’t Take Your Love from Me.”

 

“I love romantic music. I think that’s been my forte. If the music and the lyrics are married, I love it.”

 

She studied concert singing, and began making demo tapes that were sent to grand dames Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, and Carmen McRae. Many friends and new fans could find the young singer on the stage of the Apollo Theater, as the opening act. “One day my name is going to be so big that it’ll cover the entire marquee,” said Lynne to Apollo Theatre owner, Frank Shiffman, “Fortunately, he believed in me, and it happened!”

 

Lynne became an instant hit at Harlem clubs The Baby Grand and Branker’s. Along with guitarist Kenny Burrell, and house pianist Ram Ramirez, she packed Branker’s on weekends. In the mid50s, she joined the Dorsey Sisters and toured with Ella Fitzgerald. Ella encouraged her, saying “You have the voice and ability to be a star.” Even though Lynne was well on her way to stardom, that statement from Ella inspired her to work even harder.

 

Her 1958 recording, Miss Gloria Lynne, was a hit. She also began headlining at the Apollo Theater. She began touring with Ray Charles and Billy Eckstine, and was called upon to replace Billie Holiday, McRae, and Washington on gigs they couldn’t make.

 

Even after 50 plus recordings, strenuous one-nighters and furious scheduling of worldwide tours, Lynne’s voice retains a fullness and exquisite control to this day. She maintains a loyal following of fans who fawn over her glorious interpretive skills, particularly on love songs such as “I Wish You Love,” and “Don’t Go to Strangers.”

 

 

“I love romantic music. I think that’s been my forte. If the music and lyrics are married, I love it.” 

—by GREG THOMAS

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a project of Community Works NYC and New Heritage Theatre Group

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