JOSEPHINE BAKER: SHE KISSED AT THE CLOUDS
JOSEPHINE BAKER: LIFE WAS A CABARET
Born in 1906, Josephine Baker journeyed the vaudeville roads during her teenage years. A Black woman, and reminded of it daily, she later sailed for Europe. In Europe, she gleamed like a diamond in her singing performances. In Paris, as the cabaret seasons passed she kept dazzling her audiences. She sang, she laughed, she clowned. But, home was an ocean away. On winter evenings an expatriate, even in a crowd, could feel very lonely. Sometimes she cried. And cried.
French artists drew her, photographers snapped pictures of her. The lithographs were colorful and bawdy. French politicians gaped at her on the stage and wondered about her America. Literary lions couldn’t resist writing about her. The poet e. e. cummings said of her: “She enters through a dense electric twilight, walking backwards on hands and feet, legs and arms stiff, down a huge jungle tree as a creature neither infrahuman nor superhuman but somehow both: a mysteriously unkillable Something, equally non-primitive and uncivilized, or beyond time in the sense that emotion is beyond arithmetic.”
During World War II, she took an active role in the French Resistance, spying on the Nazis. In 1961, she was awarded The French Legion of Honor for her wartime efforts.
Two years later, Josephine Baker attended the March on Washington. It was a hot and steamy day on the Washington Mall. Still, she wore her Free French uniform and her Legion medal. Josephine marched proudly right alongside the Mississippi sharecroppers. She looked approachable, and regal. Sammy Davis Jr.’s jaw dropped at the sight of her; he gave her a lift in his limousine afterward.
Josephine Baker died in 1975; since then, with so many people beginning to study and think about her life, she and the story of her life have begun to grow like a monument.
A lengthy account of Josephine Baker’s life and legendary musical achievements has been given in The Washington Post.
- JOSEPHINE BAKER: LIVE IN PARIS, SINGING AVEC
- JOSEPHINE BAKER: I COULD HAVE DANCED ALL NIGHT
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