Ernestine Anderson, Grammy-Nominated Jazz Singer, Dies at 87

Ernestine Anderson Dead
Courtesy of Concord Records

Jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson, who was nominated for four Grammys over her career, died Thursday, reports the Associated Press. She was 87.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office told the AP on Sunday that she died of “natural causes” at a nursing home in Shoreline, Wash.

Over her six-decade career, Anderson performed at events around the world, including at the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958, as well as at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, according to the Seattle Times. Her voice was once described as “honey at desk” by friend and producer Quincy Jones.

The singer performed at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential inauguration, and often played with bands led by Lionel Hampton and Johnny Otis.

Anderson was born in Houston and won a talent contest when she was 12. She moved with her family to Seattle in 1944, where she attended the Garfield High School. There, she sang with the Bumps Blackwell Junior Band, which featured Jones.

She began touring when she was 18, going on the road with Otis’ band.

Her first single, “K.C. Lover/Good Lovin’ Babe,” was recorded in 1948. While she was in New York, Anderson toured Rolf Ericson to tour Europe. There, she recorded her critically acclaimed album “Hot Cargo,” which was released by Mercury Records in 1958.

Anderson would go on to release six albums with Mercury Records until she quit singing in the ’60s. She revived her career in the ’70s and released “Hello, Like Before” in 1977, and continued to record for years after.

While she frequently moved across the United States, Anderson often returned to Seattle, where she became a jazz staple. The city’s Bumbershoot Arts Festival awarded her with its Golden Umbrella honor in 2002.

Anderson is survived by three children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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    1. Ernestine Anderson was particularly special to me, dating back to 1971 in Hollywood, California when as a young hopeful nightclub singer, I was introduced to her by Choreographer/Dancer Joel Noble, her early criticisms of me as a singer, coupled with encouragment carried me through sixteen countries in the Middle East, Europe, and the United Kingdom. She originally introduced me to Buddhism which shaped my spiritual path, long before I re-converted to Christianity. I remember the wonderful times with her at Simone Washington’s flat in London, and later in the Village in New York. There are only a handful of precious jewels that you get to meet in life, in the form of human beings, Ernestine was certainly one of them, like my Mother, ‘More precious than rubies’.Frank Charles Dodson.

    2. Iris Brady says:

      God bless you, Ernestine. You’re singing with the angels now! Thank you for the joy you brought to us on Earth.

    3. The Jazz Diva says:

      I believe the quote should read “honey at dusk” rather than the printed phrase “honey at desk.”
      Thanks for acknowledging a female Jazz musician!

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