Home » blog » Happy 120th Birthday, Eva Jessye

Happy 120th Birthday, Eva Jessye

This is what One This Day In Jazz Age Music says about Eva Jessye, who was born on this day in 1895:

Eva Jessye, an African-American singer, composer, choral director and actress.

She was one of the few musical phenomenons of the twentieth century. She was born Eva Alberta Jessye in Coffeyville, Kansas, near Oklahoma. Her father supported the family as a chicken picker. She was an avid reader as a child. She sang, she wrote her first poem at the age of seven. She won a contest at thirteen. Jessye studied choral music and music theory at the now-defunct Western University in Quindaro, Kansas, graduating in 1914. (Continue Reading…)

The version of the spiritual “I’m a Po’ Lil’ Orphan” above was sung by Marti Newland  at the Church of the Epiphany in New York City in March, 2012. The notes at YouTube say that the arrangement was included in Jessye’s 1927 collection “My Spirituals.” The pianist is Artis Wodehouse. Jessye died in 1992.