While she was one of the key artists in the transition of rhythm and blues to rock ‘n’ roll, probably her greatest triumph was in how she endured. After a number of years in which Ruth worked as a maid and in other menial jobs, she was rediscovered and went on to act on television, in films (very memorably as “Motormouth Maybelle” in John Waters’s Hairspray), and on stage. Ruth Brown just kept on keepin’ on.
She was also a major figure in the battle to get the early R&B and rock ‘n’ roll pioneers remunerated for the royalties they were screwed out of in the ’50s and early ’60s. Her voice was an amazing amalgam of powerful gospel belting and girlish squeaks, kind of like a rudimentary Ella Fitzgerald. Ruth Brown was one of the greats, and she will be missed.
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