Barbara Morrison, one of the legendary voices of jazz, has died at the age of 72.
At the time of writing, Morrison’s cause of death has not been made public. In 2011, Morrison publicly confirmed that she had been diagnosed with diabetes. Morrison was a double amputee.
A native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, Morrison was raised in the nearby town of Romulus. Her career really took off when she was 23 years of age and moved to Los Angeles.
During her long and storied career, Morrison performed alongside artists as diverse as Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, and Etta James. In addition to her own performing, she was also the founder of the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center. A 99-seater venue in Los Angeles.
On her Instagram page, Morrison referred to herself as, “One of the hardest working and busiest jazz and blues entertainers in the business.”
Morrison once said in an interview that she wanted to be a Motown girl
Morrison told the San Francisco Classical Voice in a December 2020 interview that she spent her whole life trying to be in the Motown scene. Morrison said that scene “wouldn’t give [her] the time of day.” She said that the jazz scene gave her attention.
Morrison added, “When I was 9 years old, I entered their contest on the radio — the first Black broadcasting station in the United States. I sang a Stevie Wonder song and got attention from the R&B community. Stevie comes over to see me sometimes, so we’re still going on.”
During that same interview, Morrison described moving to Los Angeles in 1972 saying that she drove there and quickly joined a rock band named Smog Control. That didn’t last long, and Morrison said she was soon performing regularly in jazz clubs.
Morrison also mentioned that her diabetes was under control and that she was “off insulin.”
Despite having both of her legs amputated, Morrison still toured across the country
Morrison told ABC Los Angeles in a February 2020 interview that despite having both of her legs amputated due to her diabetes she still toured. She said in her interview, “I still go on the road. But not as much as I used to. I still feel that there’s room for people like me to keep the flame burning.”
In 2011, when Morrison first had one of her legs amputated, a fundraiser was set up by figures in the Los Angeles jazz community to help her to pay for her medical bills. DJ James Janisse told LA Weekly at the time, “Barbara is one of the finest human beings that I have ever known in my life. Her devotion to her craft and her consideration of those coming behind her are worthy of the praise given to saints.”
At that time, Morrison told The Los Angeles Times, “The doctor said they needed to remove my leg to save my life. Thankfully, it doesn’t affect my singing at all.” Morrison added that she was due to receive a prosthetic leg.