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Betty Carter: Living for Singing

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Betty Carter is the best-known American jazz singer who was able to develop her improvisational techniques. Although she wanted to improve her role as jazz vocalist, she did not reach a lot of recognition as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan did.

Since very early years, she studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory. Thanks to her skills, she won a talent contest and had the opportunity to sing and play piano more frequently on the local club. At the age of sixteen years old, she had the privilege of singing with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie. Moreover, she also toured with Lionel Hampton, whom used to call her “Betty Bebop.” Indeed, Carter disliked this nickname because she did not want to be known as a scat. 

Unfortunately, the high level of her career diminished during the 1960s and 1970s; nevertheless, a number of duets with Ray Charles made him gain some acknowledgement. When she performed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1977 and 1978, she was welcomed pleasantly. In regards to awards, she received a Grammy in 1988 for her album Look What I Got. Carter’s major achievement was her contribution to launch the Jazz Ahead program for young singers at the Kennedy Center. She also got a National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. It is known that until her death, she was an active artist.

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