Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Herb Jeffries, who sang with Duke Ellington and starred in early black westerns as a singing cowboy known as "the Bronze Buckaroo" -- a nickname that evoked his malleable racial identity -- died on Sunday in West Hills, Calif. He was believed to be 100. Called a "one-man minority group" in a 1951 Life magazine story, Jeffries was performing music in a career that stretched from Earl Hines Orchestra in the 1930s to an Idyllwild, Calif., club in the 2000s. His hit song "Flamingo," released in 1941, sold more than 14 million copies.

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Jeffries' racial and ethnic identity was itself something of a performance -- and a moving target. His mother was white, his father more of a mystery. He told some people that his father was African-American, others that he was mixed race and still others that he was Ethiopian or Sicilian. "He told me he had to make this decision about whether he should try to pass as white," the jazz critic Gary Giddins recalled. "He said: 'I just knew that my life would be more interesting as a black guy. If I'd chosen to live my life passing as white, I'd have never been able to sing with Duke Ellington."

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#1 | Posted by Corky at 2014-05-27 12:06 PM | Reply | Flag:

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