About Ethel Waters
Ethel Waters (October 31, 1896 – September 1, 1977) 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". Waters was the second African American, after Hattie McDaniel, to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Ethel 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 thirteen 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, who played no role in raising Ethel. Ethel Waters was raised in poverty and never lived in the same place for more than 15 months. She said of her difficult childhood, "I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family." Waters grew tall, standing 5'9½" in her teens. According to women-in-jazz historian and archivist Rosetta Reitz, Waters' birth in the North and her peripatetic life exposed her to many cultures.
Waters married at the age of 13, but soon left her abusive husband and became a maid in a Philadelphia hotel working for $4.75 per week. On her 17th birthday, she attended a costume party at a nightclub on Juniper Street. She was persuaded to sing two songs, and impressed the audience so much that she was offered professional work at the Lincoln Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. She later recalled that she earned the rich sum of ten dollars a week, but her managers cheated her out of the tips her admirers threw on the stage.