Today (November 7th) jazz vocalist René Marie celebrates her birthday. A lady never tells (another lady’s) age but in case you are interested, she was born in 1955…you do the math. Music was always a part of her life, especially as a young child growing up in a small Virginia town. She learned piano, sang at various neighborhood functions, and composed her first song at the age of 15. Despite these early musical tendencies, it was not until 1996 that she decide to devote herself entirely to her career as a jazz vocalist. Between 2000 and 2004 she released 4 albums with the MaxJazz label and won multiple awards. She has a beautiful, powerful voice that is unlike another other vocalist working today. A wonderful version of the song “Thanks, But I Don’t Dance” can be found here.
Her newest, self-released album “Voice of My Beautiful Country” is deeply personal and addresses issues of identity, race, and gender. Her trio consists of solid musical heavyweights: Eric Gunnison/Piano, Mark Simon/Bass, and Paul Romaine/Drums who are all local fixtures at the Dazzle nightclub in downtown Denver (shout out to the Denver jazz scene!!) Recently, heated discussions about Marie have not been about her music. A controversy erupted after a public performance in which she sang the song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” to the tune of the National Anthem at the State of the City address in Denver, Colorado this past July. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was written by James Weldon Johnson and is also known as at the “Black National Anthem.”The next day the Denver Post published Mayor John Hickenlooper’s “sharply worded rebuke” : “she deceived us.” This event also prompted Barack Obama (before he was officially nominated) to declare “we only have one national anthem.” For more info read this. You can also check out the performance yourself and see what all the hubbub was about here.
In any case, René Marie’s talent is undeniable and her dedication to creating positive change (helping the homeless, supporting the arts, advocating within communities of color -to name a few) is certainly admirable. Tune in to the jazz programming at KSPC (Mon-Friday 10am-2pm) for a chance to hear her sing out! Happy Birthday René!