Curate 757


Queen Esther Marrow

A Newport News native, Queen Esther Marrow has proven to be worthy of her majestic title. Discovered by Duke Ellington, Marrow has enjoyed a successful career traveling the world and has shared the stage with Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and her idol Mahalia Jackson.

AIRED: February 05, 2020 | 0:07:25

(bright music)

- It's my pleasure

to introduce Esther Marrow!

(upbeat jazz music)

- I played for the pope three times.

Invited to the Vatican twice.

I sang for three presidents,

and when I think back

and look over my life,

the roads that I've traveled,

the people that I've met,

it's just awesome.

♪ Well, there's a rose ♪

♪ In a fisted glove ♪

♪ And the eagle flies ♪

♪ With the dove ♪

♪ And if you can't be ♪

♪ With the one you love now ♪

♪ Love the one you're with ♪

Well, I left here

to go to New York

because I was tired

of my surroundings.

I was tired

of the segregation

and the prejudice.

And it was very thick

back during that time.

I mean,

everywhere you turn,

there was someone saying nasty things

or treating you different.

And I had my fill of it.

(trumpet music)

Here I am,

in the big city.

It was a different feeling.

It was a little scary,

but it was exciting also

at the same time.

Went and got myself a job,

and I was on my way.

♪ They said it was impossible ♪

I'm working on a job

in the garment district,

and I'm singing "Happy Birthday."

One of the bosses said to me,

"Hey, I got a lady I want you to meet.

You know, she's very interesting.

I want you to meet her."

I said, "Okay."

So, I went to meet her.

Sang "How Great Thou Art."

And she looked at me very seriously,

and she said,

"How would you like to be

in show business?"

She says,

"I want you

to quit your job,

and I want you

to come here every day

like you're going to work,

and I want you

to build a repertoire,

and we will find a pianist,

and we'll get some work."

The only singing I had done

had been in church.

It never crossed my mind

that I could be singing professionally.

(big band music)

Norma had a friend

that knew Duke Ellington.

She said that Duke

was getting ready

to do a big show

in San Francisco,

and he was looking

for a singer.

A week and a half later,

we get a phone call from Duke.

He wants me to come

to San Francisco

because he's doing Sacred Concert

at the Grace Cathedral.

I met Duke Ellington,

first of all,

in Lake Tahoe

because he wanted me

to meet him there.

He had a gig,

and he wanted me to sing "Solitude,"

which I knew.

And I was wondering,

I'm saying to myself,

"Well, why am I doing this?

I thought we were doing the Sacred Concert."

But he knew what he was doing.

He was preparing me

for an audience

for the big show,

you know?

Because I'd never sung

in public like this.

And then when we get to San Francisco,

I was like,


This church,

Grace Cathedral,

that sits on top of Nob Hill,

is gorgeous.

And I'm singing "Come Sunday."

♪ Tell me it's the truth ♪

♪ Yes, yes ♪

♪ Tell me it's the truth ♪

♪ The gospel truth ♪ And the sun is beaming

Through these stained-glass windows,

and it was just so unreal.

I felt like I was

in Heaven.

That was

one of the greatest experiences

I've ever had.

And then when Duke,

on top of that,

asked me,

"How would you like

to finish the Midwest tour

with me?"

I was in Seventh Heaven.

(gospel music)

(jazz music)

After working with Duke,

now I'm working

in and around New York.

One night,

working at Brody's,

a friend of mine came in.

So, she says to me,

"You know, they're looking

for Aunty Em,

down at Majestic Theater?"

I said, "Really?"

She said, "Yeah."

I said, "Whoa.

What do I do to go there?"

She says,

"Just go down there and audition."

I got the part.


And then it went over,

and I did that

for about five years,

I think.

♪ Come on and ♪

♪ Ease on down ♪

♪ Ease on down the road ♪

♪ Come on ♪

♪ Ease on down ♪

♪ Ease on down the road ♪

♪ They said it was impossible ♪

There's this guy from Germany

♪ For love to lead the way ♪

And he's looking

for a gospel group.

People were off the chain,

jumping up

and just acting wild.

The European audience,

they appreciate the music.

They love it.

They love you.

♪ I love you ♪

♪ I hear babies cry ♪

♪ I watch them grow ♪

Looking back,

from 19

to where I am now.

Little girl

from Newport News, Virginia,

singing to all these people.

It's just awesome.

I never dreamed of it.

To see your name up there

on the marquee.

I'm so thankful that

I could be a part

of show business

and leave a mark.


(audience cheering)

Thank you!

Thank you!

God bless you!


♪ I see trees of green ♪

♪ Red roses too ♪

♪ I see them bloom ♪

♪ For me ♪

♪ And for you ♪

♪ And I think to myself ♪

♪ What a wonderful world ♪


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