Bey, Salome

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Origin: Newark, New Jersey, USA - Toronto, Ontario

Salome Bey. Singer, actress, songwriter, b Newark, NJ, 1939? Salome Bey sang 1957-66 throughout the USA with her brother Andy and her sister Geraldine as Andy and the Bey Sisters. She made her first appearance in Toronto in 1961 and settled there in 1966, singing jazz, blues, and spirituals in nightclubs and on radio and TV, appearing as a featured performer at the Canadian National Exhibition grandstand in 1969, and enjoying a particular success in musicals, usually in so-called 'earth mother' roles. She was first seen at the Global Village theatre in the Robert Swerdlow revues Blue S.A. (1969) and Justine (1970) and also appeared in Spring Thaw.

Bey received an Obie award in 1972 for her performance 1971-2 in the New York production of Justine (renamed Love Me, Love My Children). Leading roles followed in Galt MacDermot's Dude (New York 1972); in Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope (Toronto 1973, Washington 1974); and in Your Arms Too Short to Box with God (New York 1975-7). Bey wrote and starred in Indigo, a Dora Mavor Moore award-winning history of the blues seen 1978-9 and again in 1980 at the Toronto cabaret Basin Street and in 1984 on CBC TV. Her revue Shimmytime (about Ethel Waters) was produced at Basin Street in 1983. A similar production, Madame Gertrude (about Ma Rainey, played by Jackie Richardson), followed there in 1985, and Bey's children's musical, Rainboworld, was presented at the Young People's Theatre in 1988. She also took other musical and/or dramatic roles - eg, in Thunder, Perfect Mind (Toronto Free Theatre, 1985); Mother Goose (Royal Alexandra Theatre, 1985); and Coming Through Slaughter (Silver Dollar Tavern, 1989).

Bey continued to appear in concert (including many benefits), in clubs, and on radio and TV, often appearing with her daughters Jacintha Tuku and Saidah Baba Talibah who, with other musicians, accompanied her as the Relatives. She sang for Canada Day celebrations at Ontario Place, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and at Expo 86, and is known for her stirring interpretation of 'Mon Pays,' a song she sang first in the 1970 Spring Thaw. Her recordings include the LPs Salome Bey (1970, CTL CTLS-5140/Qual SV-1852); Songs from Dude (1972, Kilmarnock 72003); and Jazz Canada Europe '79 (5-RCI 503), the last made during an RCI-sponsored tour of the Bracknell, Northsea and Montreux jazz festivals. She also appeared on LPs by the jazz pianist Horace Silver (The United States of Mind, Phase 2: Total Response, 1970-1, Blue Note BST-84368; The United States of Mind, Phase 3: All, 1972, Blue Note BST-84420) and with the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir. In 1991 Bey received a Toronto Arts Award in the performing arts category.

In 1995, Salome Bey and the Relatives released Christmas Blue on the record label Rainbowhirl Music Inc (RMI). Bey starred in CBC TV's 1995 holiday special "Salome Bey's Christmas Soul." She received in 1996 the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for lifetime achievement from the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal. To celebrate Black History Month and the contributions of African Canadians to jazz, blues, and R&B, Bey performed 22 Feb 2002 at Toronto's Scadding Court Community Centre. Bey was inducted as an honorary member of the Order of Canada in 2005 and was honoured 20 Feb 2008 at a Black History Month revue at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, starring Joe Sealy and Saidah Baba Talibah.

-Durrell Bowman




Bey, Salome


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