Awarding Vocalist, Songwriter, Actor
Living Legacy Legend Award
Herb Jeffries, at 92, is the sole surviving member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He is still going strong with singing engagements booked two years in advance. Amazing! Known to jazz lovers all over the world for his remarkable renditions of “Angel Eyes”, “Satin Doll” and “Flamingo”, which went platinum and is still being sold after 60 years.
Though Herb’s voice sounds better than ever, and he records new songs regularly with no plans to stop, most entertainment history books recognize Jeffries as the first African-American movie star. He says to this, “I don’t like hyphenated nouns.... It divides people.... I’m just an American who acts in movies and records songs.”
Born and raised in Detroit, Jeffries decided after seeing that segregated theaters where showing feature films featuring only white cowboys, that there should be black cowboy films as well. After all, since there had been plenty of blacks in the West and, in his words, cowboys never discriminated. He wanted it known if you could ride and do the work, it mattered little what color you where.
It took a year for Jeffries to raise the money to start his film project, but he succeeded. The tall, handsome, athletic “Bronze Buckaroo” as he is known, not only starred as Bob Blake, a fearless character, but cast the films and did all his own riding and stunts. When Harlem on the Prairie opened, Jeffries was the first in film history to portray an African-American hero.
Herb gave up his film career to perform with the Duke Ellington band during WW II. Recently, President George W. Bush honored Jeffries at the special White House celebration honoring Black Music. Among the attendees were First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and National Security Advisory Condoleeza Rice.
Herb Jeffries is a remarkable man. He is filled with unbound enthusiasm about life and music. His voice is as powerful today as was when he when he broke barriers and opened up a world for many singing stars today.
Frankie Laine presents the Legend Award to his friend and colleague. Frankie received the Legend Award in 2000.
Women’s International Center takes pride in honoring American singing star Herb Jeffries with the LEGEND Award.