Saturday, 21 May 2011

Bert Williams (1874 - 1922)

The more I write about 'blackface' the more interesting material I come up with. The pictures above and below are of Egbert Austin Williams, known as Bert, an African-American performer (I use the term for want of a better - he was actually born in the Bahamas, not the USA). His most notable achievement was to be the first person of his race to take a lead part on Broadway. What he is best remembered for, however, is his comedy double-act with George Walker, for which he wore blackface!

Bert Williams' most famous song is 'Nobody' - here is a 1913 recording of it. And here is a wonderful version of it by Ry Cooder, supported by the Golden Gate Quartet. Below is a publicity photo of Bert Williams, immaculately dressed but with a casual pose. W C Fields called him "The funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew."

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