Saturday 20 September 2014

Hampton Breaks Colour Barrier in Music

"As far as I'm concerned, what [Goodman] did in those days -- and they were hard days in 1937 -- made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and in other fields..." (Lionel Hampton)

     Just as Branch Rickey paved the way for Jackie Robinson to break the colour barrier in baseball, it was Benny Goodman who paved the way for Lionel Hampton to break the colour barrier in big band jazz.  In 1937, Goodman invited Hampton up on stage to play piano one night at the Palomar Ballroom, a full ten years before Jackie Robinson played for the Yankees.  

     Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, went on to form the first integrated jazz quartet which included Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa.  Lionel Hampton mastered other instruments besides the piano including the drums and the vibraphone.  In 1940, Lionel Hampton said goodbye to Benny Goodman and formed his own orchestra, recording such hits like "Flying Home" and "Stardust".

     Lionel Hampton continued to record jazz music until 1995.  He received many awards and honors including an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Howard University.  He was invited to the White House for Black Music Week in 2001.  

Lionel Hampton in New York City circa 1946 courtesy

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