Alberta Hunter was one of the best blues and cabaret singers of her time. She was best-known for her song “Downhearted Blues,” in 1922 which she wrote.
Hunter was born on April 1, 1895 in Memphis, TN. At the age of eleven, she ran away from Memphis to Chicago, in hopes of working as a singer. She wanted to be able to send money back home to her mother. She became an immediate success and as her reputation grew she appeared in nightclubs with such American jazz musicians as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller. She also performed on Broadway and in 1921 she made her first record.
She had one of the longest careers of any of the early female blues singers as she performed over a span of eight decades. In 1927, Hunter traveled to London, where she sang opposite American singer Paul Robeson in the British premiere of the musical “Showboat” by American composer Jerome Kern. Hunter subsequently sang in Holland, Denmark, and France. She was the first singer to perform American blues music in Europe.
In 1955, when her mother died, she retired from singing. She studied to be a nurse and later worked in hospitals in New York City. In 1977, Hunter’s singing talent was rediscovered and at the age of 82, she renewed her singing career and became famous once again. She died seven years later New York City.