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Music / Mildred Bailey

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The Queen of Swing

Mildred Bailey (February 27, 1907 - December 12, 1951) was a Native American jazz singer, known for her light soprano voice, clear articulation, and jazz phrasing. Raised on the Coeur d'Alene reservation in Idaho, She worked as a pianist in movie theatres, as a music clerk, and as a singer in speakeasies and by 1929, she was the vocalist in Paul Whiteman's orchestra.

Although, lesser known in the current era. She is generally lauded as one of the first non-black, non-white singers to have become a skilled jazz singer and one of the first Indigenous American jazz musicians at that. Given monikers such as "The Queen of Swing" and "Mrs. Swing" (to her husband, Red Norvo's "Mr. Swing"), in her heyday.

Her repertoire included swing standards such as "For Sentimental Reasons", "It's So Peaceful in the Country", "Doin' The Uptown Lowdown", "Trust in Me", "Where Are You?", "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart", "Small Fry", "Please Be Kind", "Darn That Dream" and "Rockin' Chair". She gained the Fan Nickname "Rockin' Chair Lady" for her rendition of the titular song.

Tropes pertaining to Mildred Bailey

  • Arcadia: "It's So Peaceful in the Country" espouses the simple and quiet country, contrasted with the much busier cities with "too much stone, too much telephone, too much of everything but trees and hills".
  • Call-and-Response Song: "Rockin' Chair" is a call-and-response song between an old man and his son.
    Old rockin' chair's got me
    (Old rocking chair got you, father)
    Cane by my side
    (Your cane by your side)
    Fetch me that gin, son
    (I ain't got no gin, father)
    'Fore I tan your hide
    (You're gonna tan my hide)
  • Jazz: A notable singer within the swing subgenre.
  • Torch Song: "Darn That Dream", a sentimental song where the narrator still pines for a man she knows doesn't love her.
    Darn that dream and bless it too
    Without that dream, I never would have you
    But it haunts me and it won't come true
    Oh, darn that dream
  • Ur-Example:
    • Coming before greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, she was this for female jazz musicians.
    • As stated above there were not as many Indigenous American jazz vocalist at the time either so she was a pioneer in that regard as well.