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Marion Harris

Singer, Actress

Marion Harris was a star of vaudeville in the 1920’s and the first white female singer to record jazz and blues, featuring a lot of material by African American composers. Among her hundreds of recordings, some of her best from 1917 through the ‘20s are “St. Louis Blues,” “Beale Street Blues,” “Tea for Two,” “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “Look for the Silver Lining,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Who’s Sorry Now,” “The Man I Love” and what many consider the definitive performance of “After You’ve Gone”. A blonde flapper, she seemed to epitomize the Jazz Age, and many of the songs she sang included “jazz” in the title. W.C. Handy remembers Harris in his autobiography as a singer whom many people thought was colored.

Harris appeared on radio and in several Broadway shows. In 1928 she starred in an eight-minute film called Marion Harris, Songbird of Jazz and later made some feature-length films. In 1931 she went to London, where she eventually moved and established herself as a cabaret star and BBC radio personality. She continued to record through 1934 when she retired.

-- Sandra Burlingame

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