MARY LOU WILLIAMS
Mary Lou Williams was a world-renowned jazz musician and composer. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1910, and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a child, she began playing the piano and soon developed a passion for jazz. She made her professional debut at the age of 16, when she played with the likes of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. She went on to have a hugely successful career, composing and performing with some of the biggest names in jazz.
She also wrote film scores and worked as a musical director for several Broadway shows. As a prolific composer and arranger, penning over three hundred songs during her career. Many of her compositions were inspired by her Christian faith, which she converted to in the late 1940s. She also wrote pieces that addressed social issues, such as racism and sexism. In addition to her musical accomplishments such as winning a Grammy Award in 1965, Williams was also known for her strong commitment to civil rights and social justice.
In the 1960s, Mary Lou Williams toured with her own trio band across Europe and the United States. She also taught music at Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh. In the 1970s, she became the first woman to have a composition performed by the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. She continued to perform and compose until her death on September 1, 1981. Her legacy continues to live on through her music, her innovative style and compositions influenced countless musicians, both during her lifetime and after her death. She continues to be celebrated as one of the most important figures in jazz history.