04 October 2007

Josephine Baker 1906 - 1975


Above, you see part of the grave of the Josephine Baker, which she shares with her fourth husband, the orchestra director, Jo Bouillon. Singer, entertainer, civil rights activist, humanitarian, Josephine Baker was easily the most successful black woman of her time . Born Freda Carson into poverty in St. Louis, Missouri, her ticket out was her comedic and dance abilities, which powered her rise to early American fame on Broadway. Tiring of performing in demeaning minstrel reviews, she jumped at the chance of a career in Paris where the Jazz Age fuelled heady interest in the then sensual and exotic African-American culture. She was known as the girl 'who danced her way through the 20s and 30s dressed in bananas.' (Click on THIS LINK to see a YouTube performance).


Josephine Baker was very close to the Principality of Monaco. After she was bankrupted, following the badly handled management of her well-known estate in the Dordogne, where her 'Rainbow Tribe, the 12 multi-ethnic children she had adopted, used to live. She sought to prove that children of different ethnicities and religions could be brothers. She was helped by Princess Grace of Monaco, who offered her a life-long accommodation in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and invited her on several occasions to take part in charity performances. A moving anecdote from the artist's life in 1974: at the opening of the Sporting Monte Carlo, Josephine Baker stood in for Sammy Davis Junior, who'd been taken ill at the last minute. He should have been the star performer at the Monegasque Red Cross Gala. Retired from the stage, the artist rose to the challenge and made an unexpected comeback, amazing the audience who gave her an incredible ovation. The following year, during a final Parisian revue based on her life, she suffered a stroke following her final performance and died three days later. You can read more about this amazing woman at THIS LINK.

7 comments:

Denton said...

An interesting post. I have seen a movie about Josephine Baker however I had never reflected on where her final resting place would be ... It is also interesting that she was buried with her fourth husband. This would be an argument to not have your name engraved on a tombstone when your first husband passes away. There may be three more to choose from. I laugh but this is all to really of an issue. My family faced the issue with my mother just last month.

Kate said...

Although the portal photo is small, I immediately thought of Josephine Baker. Great information in your commentary and I appreciate seeing both photos.

Strangetastes said...

Baker does not get much acknowledgment here in St. Louis. I did not know she was buried in Monaco. My wife and I once sat down for a drink at the Cafe de la Paix in Paris, where many tables have little brass plaques with the names of their habitués. We were delighted that chance put us down at Josephine Baker's table.

isabella said...

Thanks for that informative post, Jilly!
I did not realize she had 12 adopted children...I guess she was right: children of different ethnic backgrounds can form strong family ties.

Kuanyin said...

What a fascinating post with so much good info! You're a terrific blogger!

Fabrizio - ikol22 said...

Great post Jilly and thank you to have metioned about Princess Grace helped her. I was a teen ager but it touched me. Other time, other women.

Anonymous said...

I visited this cemetery today, it's beautiful.

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