Betty Carter (Photo: Jack Vartoogian/DL Media, Inc.)
Betty Carter, a charismatic singer who imbued her songs with drama and exuberance, was born on this day (May 16) in Flint, Michigan, in 1930. Called “Betty Bebop” for her unsurpassable scatting abilities, Carter got her start in Detroit during the 1940s, studying piano at the Detroit Conservatory by day and performing in bars and cabarets at night. After taking first place at an amateur singing competition one evening, she was noticed by a talent agent, who would go on to introduce her to trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Her apprenticeship with Dizzy would prove the catalyst that would jump-start her whole career, and it wasn’t long before her incredible talent carried her into the company of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and many others.
Vocalist Carmen McRae once said, “There’s really only one jazz singer — only one: Betty Carter.” Today, we celebrate Carter’s important legacy as an artist and educator with “Open the Door,” one of her most famous recordings. This version, originally recorded in 1980, comes from the 2003 Verve Compilation Betty Carter’s Finest Hour.