Phenomenal Woman: Adelaide Hall

Adelaide Hall was a Jazz singer who rose to fame during the 1900s and was most famous for the stylized wordless rhythm, which is also known as scat singing.

Born in New York in 1901, Hall was the daughter of a music teacher. She would have grown up around music, and in 1921 she debuted as a chorus member in a revue show along with other inspirational women such as Josephine Baker and Florence Mills. This show became infamous and helped to elevate Black women in the show business industry.


Hall continued to perform on stage, even heading the European Tour during 1926 for the show Chocolate Kiddies. She spent years on broadway before performing her last show in 1959. In 1938 Hall and her husband, Bertram Hicks, moved to Europe, spending time between Paris and London, where they opened multiple nightclubs.

Hall and her husband remained in Europe and settled in England, where she became a popular household name. She was the first Black woman to be given a long-term contract with the BBC. She was given her own radio show called Wrapped in Velvet. 

During WW2 Hall toured with British troops, keeping their spirits high, at one point she even performed a 52 song encore as the Germans dropped bombs around them, this is rumoured to be a world record for the most number of encores performed by a single artist.

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All of Hall’s work during WW2 lead her to become one of Britain’s highest-paid entertainers; she was the first Black female artiste to perform at the Royal Variety Show (a famous British televised event where some of the countries best acts perform for members of the royal family).

Adelaide Hall lived to see her 92nd birthday. She left a legacy that has influenced many 21st century musicians and has been celebrated long after her death. She was a pioneer in every sense of the word.


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