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Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy (Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography) by [Weaver, David E.]
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Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy (Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography) Kindle Edition

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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

The biography of a black operatic soprano who died too soon

About the Author

David E. Weaver has sung professionally in more than two dozen roles in operas and musicals. His career in the arts and in broadcasting has spanned more than twenty-five years. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2687 KB
  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (25 Aug. 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,943,144 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x89d71b34) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a14496c) out of 5 stars A Biography Fit for a Diva 20 April 2005
By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Ruby Pearl Elzy was born in small town Mississippi, but even when she was a young child it was evident that her voice would be too big to keep her there. Her dream of becoming an opera singer seemed unfathomable considering the fact that her father had abandoned the family and her mother worked multiple jobs,one as a school teacher, just to meet the basic needs of the family. But like her mother, Ruby had strong faith that God would make a way for her and neither of the two women was afraid of hard work. Their faith and work ethics, coupled with the dedication and help from others, both black and white, allowed Ruby to continue her education and eventually study at the famed Juilliard School. Despite racism and the barriers it created, she was able to perform on stage, radio and film, her trademark role being that of Serena from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Although she never accomplished her dream of starring in Verdi's Aida, her brief career was full of notable accomplishments. Tragically, Ruby Elzy died in her prime, before she could accomplish her goal to sing in grand opera. Yet, she left an indelible legacy that has inspired many.

Before I picked up this book I didn't know who Ruby Elzy was, but thanks to this book, I not only know of her accomplishments, but also a little about her on a personal level. I was even inspired to search online for audio clips so that I could hear the voice I read so much about. David Weaver has crafted a work that is a perfect balance between Elzy's personal and professional lives. When he writes about issues such as her divorce from her first husband or her relationship with her father, he does so with a respect that is often missing in today's biographies. He also does a wonderful job recreating the zeitgeist of the 1930's era by providing just enough relevant historical information. It is obvious from reading the book and scanning its extensive endnotes that BLACK DIVA OF THE THIRTIES is a well-researched book; it provides a comprehensive view of an important, but often overlooked woman, whose life was cut too short.

Reviewed by Stacey Seay

of The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a1449c0) out of 5 stars An Accomplished Debut 10 Nov. 2004
By Derek Mannering - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
BLACK DIVA OF THE THIRTIES: THE LIFE OF RUBY ELZY is a fascinating and moving tribute to the great American soprano by first-time author David Weaver. Mr. Weaver's solid musical background serves him well in capturing the successes and the ultimate tragedy of this incomparable artist's life and career, and it's a testament to the author's style and sensitivity that no lofty musical pronouncements tarnish the pages of this book. Weaver treats his subject with intelligence and respect and it shows.

Biographers new to their craft often fall into the trap of overstating (and overstuffing) their subject's history, but all such pitfalls are avoided here. The book is a model of its kind and portrays Ruby Elzy's life and times in a warm, comprehensive and thoroughly engaging fashion. Weaver is also a born writer and I defy anyone to sample the marvelously evocative Prologue and not read on.

The book is a joy to read but more importantly, through the quality of his writing and the integrity of his research, Weaver ensures that Ruby Elzy's distinguished contribution to 20th century music will not be forgotten. The greatest test of any musical biography is whether the reader is compelled at the end of the book to seek out the subject's recorded legacy. With BLACK DIVA OF THE THIRTIES David Weaver has accomplished that task triumphantly, leaving the reader only to regret that so little recorded material by Ms. Elzy has survived her untimely passing.

This is a wonderful book by a gifted writer and an essential addition to every serious music lover's library.

Derek Mannering is the author of MARIO LANZA: A LIFE IN PICTURES published by Robert Hale, London. The author's acclaimed and newly revised biography MARIO LANZA: SINGING TO THE GODS will be published in the United States in summer 2005 by University Press of Mississippi.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a144df8) out of 5 stars Lost Singer Rediscovered 13 Nov. 2004
By Lanny Flaherty - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A gifted four-year-old black girl child sings in church in a remote village in the hills of north Mississippi. She, two sisters, brother and schoolteacher mother are deserted by the father. In the 1920s existence in this farming community is hard for white folks, and much harder for a deserted black family of a woman and four children. By the time this girl is grown she will have graduated from Juilliard as a singer of classical music, given concerts throughout the country, entertained at the White House, performed in movies, become a favorite of George Gershwin and originated the role of Serena in Porgy & Bess. How it all happened has to be a biography because you would not believe it in a work of the imagination. It is all true. And it is well told in Black Diva. Although published by a University Press it is as far from academic gobbledygook as could be. Mr. Weaver writes well and has constructed an exciting story. This is not one of those bios where you know little more when you finish it than you did before. He "connected" with this girl, Ruby Elzy, and you get to know her, the times, the music, the atmosphere as well as if he had written a novel. Once famous, Ruby is now nearly forgotten. She shouldn't be. I invite you to read this book. You'll like her. And you'll want to hear her sing.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a1461e0) out of 5 stars "There is no color to talent." 3 Jun. 2009
By Ellen H. Ulken - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ruby Elzy sang spirituals at home and in church until she finished fifth grade in the schoolhouse where her mother was the only teacher. She wondered what she would do with her life. There was no high school for blacks in 1919 in Pontotoc, Mississippi. Ruby's friend-Jane Lathan-was a white girl whose mother taught piano. In the Lathan living room the girls played on a Victrola, again and again, records of the songs that enchanted Ruby. Ruby overheard Jane's mother describing to friends a concert she'd heard in Memphis: the large hall, the singer, her beautiful gown, the music, an enthusiastic audience. Ruby ran home to tell her mother what she wanted to do-sing for people from a stage wearing a pretty dress.

In "Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy," David E. Weaver has written a beautifully researched, detailed, and poignant account of Ruby's life and her reach for success with constant work, a God-given voice, and a genuine warmth of spirit.

From Rust College, to Ohio State University to Julliard and Broadway, to radio, film and fame, we follow her through triumph and sorrow. She costarred with Paul Robeson in "Emperor Jones," with Bing Crosby in "Birth of the Blues" and played the original Serena in George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," singing the role hundreds of time on Broadway and on the road. She performed in Eleanor Roosevelt's White House. "There's no color to talent," said Ruby. Ruby was preparing for the starring role in Aida when she died at age 35 in a Detroit hospital during routine surgery.

I applaud David E. Weaver for bringing Ruby Elzy back into focus so that her life can be clearly viewed and pondered.

David Weaver has also produced in 2006, with Cambria Master Recordings "Ruby Elzy in Song: Rare Recordings (1935 - 1942)," on which all of her recorded works are remastered by Lance Bowling onto one CD. Now her lovely voice can be heard and enjoyed for all time
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8a14618c) out of 5 stars Much more than a biography of one singer 30 Sept. 2005
By Rob Pollock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Ruby Elzy, on the scant evidence of the one recording that I have yet heard (St Louis Blues, in the film of Birth of the Blues), was a great artist, both as actor and singer.

David Weaver's fine book is a most moving and informing tribute to Ruby Elzy's life and career. It is also a tribute to the achievement of a people emerging with triumph from slavery and discrimination. Despite their triumph, this book also indicts the nature of ongoing discrimination, against Afro-Americans and against all other people of colours and beliefs and ways of life that cannot be accommodated by the fear-based, unreasoned and unreasonable prejudice of other people across the world. This world is too small a place to contain both a diverse humanity and oppressive, evil prejudice.

In spite of the great interest and pleasure that I found, and continue to find on re-reading, in David Weaver's first book (surely, other books may follow), reading it was a painful experience - it has forced me to confront my own, deep-seated prejudices. There is a story where Ruby Elzy is walking with her friends and is mocked by a racist white boy. When she starts to sing a joyful spiritual instead of being downcast, the boy then acknowledges, in a kind of begrudging wonder, that she surely could sing.

David Weaver's work in creating this good book has helped many of us to share that boy's wonder. Sharing his admiration and affection for this great woman and her people is a gift that earns him the warm, well-earned gratitude of his readers.

David Weaver is now preparing a CD of Ruby Elzy's work and no doubt this will be sought after by many people on its release.
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