Nellie Lutcher—My Introduction to the Wonders of Black Culture
I was a teenager before I realized that blacks existed.
Without my knowing, blacks had been bussed to schools far from the ones I attended through high school.
But somewhere along the line, I heard, in my culturally liberal home environment, the recordings of Nellie Lutcher, and that launched me along a cultural path which has immeasurably enriched my life.
Looking back, way back, I have a clearer view of what it was about Nellie Lutcher that caused such a seismic influence on my social and cultural orientation.
Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, the performances of Nellie Lutcher are now readily accessible along with intensely interesting biographical information. She composed most of her songs, she played them with the skill of the greatest jazz pianists, and, by the way, she sang the shit of them.
Nellie joined the ranks of other artists who, for some perverse reason, were denied the prominence and consequent riches of the less talented. For example, why didn’t Dolores Gray have the career of Ethel Merman? Why didn’t Gene Rowlands have the career of Lana Turner?
What did Ella Fitzgerald have that Nellie Lutcher didn’t?
From my fascination with the recordings of Nellie Lutcher followed a life-long affection for black culture (including the men, by the way) and my appreciation of the United States with its dedication to freedom and encouragement of ethnic diversity.
I was thrilled to attend one of Nellie Lutcher’s last live performances at The Cookery, a wonderful jazz club within the shadows of NYU in Greenwich Village. It was glorious, especially when the singer identified the recording that enabled her to “eat a little higher on the hog.”
Thanks, Nellie, you changed my life, and I’ll be forever grateful.
To paraphrase the title of one of Nellie Lutcher’s first hit recordings, “She’s a real gone gal and I love her, deed I do.”