The Crusader Newspaper Group

Melba Moore reflects on her history-making career

By Clarence Waldron
Guest Columnist

As the nation recently celebrated Women’s History Month, famed singer and actress Melba Moore proudly looks back on several “firsts” in her career. She made history as the first Black actress to replace a white actress in Broadway’s “Hair” in 1969.

She told the “Black Muse” video podcast on YouTube: “The female lead left. I auditioned for it and became the first Black actress to replace a white actress. Guess who was the lead who left? Diane Keaton. She left to go with Woody Allen, I think the play he was doing was ‘Play It Again Sam.’ From there on, he took her to the movies, and she became the big movie icon that she has become.”

Moore went on to become the first Black to win a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “Purlie” in 1970. She told Black Muse, “I never studied acting. I’d never gone to the theater. I didn’t know what a Tony was. I had never heard of it. God had His hands on me.”

IMG 2009Along the way, she was featured on several covers of Jet Magazine, including the July 30, 1990, issue “Melba Moore Tells Why She Recorded ‘Lift Every Voice’ To Benefit Black Churches.”  She said: “It was always exciting because everybody does not get the cover of Jet.  To be on the cover of Jet and Ebony means you are official, you’re on record that everybody recognizes and accepts you as official.”

She produced the tune with a number of artists including Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Anita Baker and Jeffrey Osborne. The song was formally entered into the U.S. Congressional Record as the official African-American national anthem.

Her long string of hits includes “Lean On Me,” “Love’s Comin’ at Ya,” “You Stepped Into My Life,” “A Little Bit More,” with Freddie Jackson, and “I Got Love,” from “Purlie.”

Moore is back on the charts with the upbeat tune, “Just Doing Me.”

She sings, “The Lord has brought me a mighty long way. Never lost my voice, never lost my health, never lost my praise, still doing me.”

Howard Sandifer serves as executive producer of “Black Muse,” which is presented by the Chicago West Community Music Center, a non-profit arts center. Funding is by the Driehaus Foundation.

For more from the lively conversation, check out the Black Muse channel on YouTube. Click on the link for Melba Moore and the other celebrity guests, Dionne Warwick, Will Downing and Kurt Carr. Search [].

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