British author Iain Cameron Williams’ new biography of singer Adelaide Hall, recently released in the U.K., will hit U.S. bookstores this August. Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, the biography is entitled Underneath a Harlem Moon…The Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall, and is the first major biography of the singer.
Born in Brooklyn, Hall began her career in 1921 as a member of the chorus in the all black Broadway musical Shuffle Along. In 1927, Hall helped give Duke Ellington his first big hit by singing the wordless vocal on “Creole Love Call.” After the death of Florence Mills in 1928, Hall filled the leading lady’s shoes in the Blackbirds revue on Broadway and introduced the song “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love”.
She enjoyed moderate success in America throughout the ’20s and ’30s, but in 1935 she left the states permanently to make her home in Europe. First settling in Paris, after 3 years she and her husband moved to London, where she would remain until her death in 1993. In England, Hall appeared in films and made several recordings for the Decca label, and in the ’80s found herself in high demand as a result of the release of the movie Cotton Club.
While Hall’s achievements in the U.S. seem to have been largely forgotten, in England she was one of the nation’s highest-earning stars, and in addition to performing, she and her husband owned three nightclubs in London. 2001 marked the centenary of her birth and the 75th anniversary of recording “Creole Love Call” with Ellington. Williams’ biography deals exclusively with her early career in America and Paris and concludes upon her arrival in Britain in 1939.
Stephen Bourne, author of Black in the British Frame – The Black Experience in British Film and Television, says of the book: “By documenting Adelaide Hall’s early years in show business, Iain Cameron Williams takes the reader on a roller coaster ride, making stops in New York, Chicago, Paris, London; visiting Broadway, the Moulin Rouge and the Cotton Club. It is impossible to pause for breath and put the book down, for the author has brilliantly captured the spirit of Miss Hall, and uncovered facts hitherto unknown. Her energy, talent and passion for life made her one of the best-loved and most in-demand entertainers of the 1920s and 1930s, and yet so little has been published about her. Too often Adelaide Hall has been overlooked in histories of jazz and popular music. This thoroughly researched biography, written with love, must surely give her the recognition she deserves as the real First Lady of Jazz, and as a trailblazer in popular entertainment. This is a journey everyone should take.”
For more information, visit www.continuumbooks.com.