A Divine Voice for Sassy Sarah


November 18, 2012 by dontbringlulubook

The Onions family was very close – Ron, loving husband and devoted father, Doris, a caring mother and wife, daughters Sarah and Louise.

Throughout their remarkable journeys to various countries around the world, the passion of music was always present.

We have explored the title of the book ‘Don’t Bring Lulu’ in an earlier article, relating to a song from 1925.  Music was also influential in the choice of names for the children.

In one of the book extracts we hear from Doris and discover Sarah was named after the ‘jazz immortal’ Sarah Vaughan.

Sarah Lois Vaughan was born in Newark New Jersey on 17th March 1924.

Like many children in her town, she grew up singing in the local church.  This, along with piano lessons and parents with a thirst for song, instilled a love of music.

Although not as glamorous or commercial as the numerous ‘talent show’ contests we are bombarded with nowadays, Sarah’s big break came after winning an amateur content at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

This gave her the opportunity to be a warm-up act for a week of concerts by Ella Fitzgerald.  It is rumoured that it was these performances that caught the attention of Billy Eckstine – a singer with the Earl Hines big band.

She joined the band, initially as a pianist and backing vocalist, but then she became a prominent singer.

When Eckstine formed his own band, Sarah went, too.  This gave her the opportunity to make her first recording.  She then was asked to record material as a soloist.  Great jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker also performed on her records.

Vaughan went from strength to strength, signing numerous record deals.  She even successfully crossed over from jazz to popular music.

Sarah performed at the first Newark Jazz Festival, also at Carnegie Hall, and toured America and Europe.

She was a Grammy Award Winner and was bestowed the NEA Jazz Masters Award.

Nicknames bestowed upon her include ‘Sailor’ for her speech; ‘Sassy’ which Sarah herself is believed to have shortened to ‘Sass’, and ‘The Divine One’.

Although she married three times, Sarah was unable to bear children.  She did adopt a baby girl, Debra, who went on to work as an actress under the pseudonym Paris Vaughan.

In Sarah’s later life, ill-health reduced her ability to tour and eventually put a stop to it altogether.

This jazz legend died of lung cancer on April 3rd 1990, 66 years old.


One thought on “A Divine Voice for Sassy Sarah

  1. […] the article ‘A Divine Voice for Sassy Sarah’ we learn about the jazz icon behind Sarah Onions’ […]


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