Thursday, April 26, 2007

Savannah Churchill: Sho' Nuff Blues


Savannah Churchill, the original Queen of Rhythm & the sho nuff Blues. Savannah was born in Colfax, Louisiana on August 21, 1920 from Creole parents. Jobs and opportunities were scarce in places like Colfax, Louisiana so the Churchill family joined the African Migration North. The family packed their things and moved to Brooklyn, New York where Savannah would grow up to become a fine young lady. Savannah’s experience started out just like any experience for African American New Yorkers in the 1930’s. This was during America's Great Depression. However, it was business as usual for many of the black immigrants from the Southern United States. Struggle was their life's story and the Blues was their soundtrack.

Savannah married young, but the marriage was cut short when her husband died in a car accident. The tragedy left the 20 year old Savannah with two children to support on her own. Savannah set out to find work and the year was 1941. While many black women of the time would’ve searched for work as a domestic Savannah decided to pursue a career in singing. She felt she had a good chance to make it in the business. Besides, she was young, pretty, and she possessed a beautiful, smoky alto voice. So, Savannah set out and played gigs in different spots around town. Soon people began to know about this Creole sensation from Brooklyn by way of Colfax, LA. By 1942 Savannah had recorded two hit singles with Beacon Records. The songs were the risqué “Fat Meat is Good Meat” and “Two Faced Man.” The success from these songs and the exposure launched Savannah Churchill’s singing career. Her other hits included the songs, “I Want to Be Loved,” “Once There Lived A Fool,” and “Ain'tcha Glad I Love You.”

Savannah enjoyed success throughout the 1940s and '50s singing all over the country including an invitation to sing in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1954. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike a second time. The year was 1956. Savannah was singing on stage one evening when a drunken man fell from a balcony above her. The man’s full weight fell on top of Savannah; this incident, coupled with fate, would end the career of a beautiful and talented singer. Death, however, did not arrive in an instant. According to Savannah Churchill’s granddaughter, Audrey Churchill, Savannah Churchill developed cancer of the esophagus from years of cigarette smoking. She stated:

“While she did suffer for quite some time as a result of the injury from the man falling on her during her performance, she did not die from that injury. My grandmother was a smoker, as were most people during that time, and she developed cancer of her esophogus, which permanently ended any possibilities of singing. The operations for treating the cancer meant she was in and out of the hospital many times over the years. However, later she fell down the stairs and broke her hip, which landed her back into the hopital where she developed pneumonia and died. She was survived by her mother Hazel Roberts, who continued to live in the house well into 1990's.”

Savannah Churchill died on April 19, 1974 at the age of 53. Savannah Churchill, the original Queen of Rhythm & the sho nuff Blues.
Note: To read more about Savannah Churchill's life and family please visit the websites and comments of this post.
Sources and Photo credit: http://www.group-harmony.com/, Audrey Churchill, and Wikipedia.org
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