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This Week in Texas Music History: Jules Bledsoe

by Stephen Becker 16 Jul 2010 1:01 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll honor a man who studied to be a doctor but instead made his mark as a Broadway singer.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman honors a man who studied to be a doctor but instead made his mark as a Broadway singer.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.

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African-American singer and composer Jules Bledsoe died on July 14, 1943. Born in Waco on December 29, 1897, he studied medicine at Columbia University in the 1920s. However, Bledsoe’s passion was singing, and his rich baritone soon brought him widespread acclaim throughout the United States and Europe. Although primarily an operatic singer, Bledsoe also performed on Broadway. In 1927, he gained national fame in Jerome Kern’s musical Showboat. Bledsoe’s rendition of the song “Ol’ Man River” became an American classic. Jules Bledsoe went on to appear in several Hollywood movies. He also composed a number of songs and operas, including Bondage, based on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom’s Cabin.