Hall, Adelaide (1904–1993)

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Hall, Adelaide (1904–1993)

African-American jazz singer and actress. Born on October 20, 1904, in Brooklyn, New York; died on November 7, 1993, in London, England; married Bert Hicks, in 1925 (died 1962).

Adelaide Hall was the daughter of a music teacher and began her own enduring singing and acting career after the death of her father in the early 1920s. Hall was one of the few African-American performers of the mid-20th century to earn success both in the United States and in Europe. Her illustrious singing career included collaborations with such stars as Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, and Joe Loss. Hall may be best known for her rendition of "Digga Digga Do" from Blackbirds, and for her collaboration with Duke Ellington on the song "Creole Love Call," in which she sang a wordless instrumental solo.

Hall's theater credits on both sides of the Atlantic include Shuffle Along (1922), Runnin' Wild (1923), Chocolate Kiddies (1925), Desires of 1927 (1927), Blackbirds of 1928 (1928), Brown Buddies (1930), The Sun Never Sets (1938), Keep Shufflin' (1938), Kiss Me Kate (1951), Love from Judy (1952), Someone to Talk To (1956), Jamaica (1957), and Janie Jackson (1958). She also appeared in the films Dancers in the Dark (1932), All-Colored Vaudeville Show (1935), Dixieland Jamboree (1935), The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and Night and the City (1950).

Although she had stopped acting by the 1950s, Hall continued touring as a singer into the 1960s. She was a popular performer and frequently appeared at the top nightclubs in the United States and Europe such as the Alhambra, Les Ambassadeurs, the Cotton Club, and the Savoy. She and her husband-manager Bert Hicks settled in England in 1938 and ran several successful nightclubs there until his death in 1962.

Hall was an energetic performer and maintained a strong pace even as she aged. In 1979, she appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival with other stars of the 1920s and 1930s, including Edith Wilson and John W. Bubbles. They performed songs reminiscent of "Black Broadway" shows from the first half of the century and repeated the performance in May of 1980 at Town Hall in New York City. Adelaide Hall passed away on November 7, 1993, at her home in London.


Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland