All That’s Black: Esther Jones

Esther Jones, singer and entertainer:

Known by her stage name “Baby Esther,” she was an American singer and entertainer known for her “baby” voice singing.

She was a performer at the Cotton Club in Harlem. In the late 1920s, another singer named Helen Kane, saw Esther’s performance and, noting the audience appeal, stole Esther’s scat sounds, manipulating it into a hit song “I Wanna Be Loved By You”, which became famous overnight.

An early test sound film was discovered which featured Baby Esther performing in this style, disproving Kane’s claims of inventing the scat lyrics “Boop-Boop-a-Doop.” Baby Esther’s ex-manager Bolton testified that Helen Kane had seen Baby Esther’s cabaret act in 1928 with Tony Shayne, and then not too long after suddenly started to scat sing in shows. Supreme Court Judge Edward J. McGoldrick ruled: “The plaintiff has failed to sustain either cause of action by proof of sufficient probative force.

Today Baby Esther is best known as Betty Boop’s black grandmother.

By Aprille’ Morris & Emily Burke

Edited By Keshav Kant

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Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!

You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.

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