Eartha Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on January 17, 1927 on a cotton plantation in North, South Carolina. Conceived through rape, her mother was Cherokee and Black, her father a poor cotton farmer of German or Dutch descent, whose actual last name was Kitt. She was predominantly raised in what would be commonly known as foster care during her young life she was eventually reunited with her biological mother in New York City.
Kitt began her career as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company in 1943, remaining until 1948. A talented singer with a distinctive voice, she recorded the hits “Let’s Do It”, “Champagne Taste”, “C’est Si Bon”, “Just an Old Fashioned Girl”, “Monotonous”, “Je Cherche un Homme”, “Love For Sale”; and “Mink, Schmink” among others, with her most recognizable hit being “Santa Baby” released in 1953.
Eartha’s unique style was enhanced with her fluency in French during her years performing in Europe. She spoke four languages and sang in seven, which she effortlessly demonstrated in many of the live recordings of her cabaret performances. In 1950, Orson Welles gave Kitt her first starring role as Helen of Troy in his staging of Dr. Faustus. Throughout the decade this would lead to other Broadway plays such as Mrs. Patterson, Shinbone Alley and Jolly’s Progress; and films including Mark of the Hawk, St. Louis Blues and Anna Lucasta.
Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt recorded; worked in film, television, and nightclubs; and took on the role of Catwoman in the Batman tv series, but in 1968 her anti-Vietnam war remarks at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson, caused the First Lady to burst into tears and the President to derail Kitt’s career. She spent the next decade performing in Europe and Asia until her return to Broadway in 1978 in the play “Timbuktu!” a version of Kismet set in Africa.
Over the course of her career, sultry vocalist and actress Eartha Kitt would go on to do voice-overs, write three autobiographies, chart songs for both disco and dance, support HIV/AIDS organizations, returned to Broadway yet again, lent her distinctive voice to The Jungle Book, The Emperor’s New Groove, and My Life As A Teenage Robot; won three Annie Awards and two Emmys, and was the spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics a year before her death on Christmas Day, December 25, 2008.
More Posts: vocal