William Warfield - Rotten Tomatoes

William Warfield

Highest Rated:   89% Show Boat (1951)
Lowest Rated:   89% Show Boat (1951)
Birthday:   Not Available
Birthplace:   Not Available
As the smooth-voiced bass-baritone singer who crooned "Ol' Man River" in the 1951 musical Show Boat, William Warfield's voice has endured the generations that followed to become one of the most memorable show tunes in film history. Born into a family of sharecroppers in West Helena, AR, Warfield showed vocal promise as a child when he received a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music as a result of winning first prize in the National Music Educators League Competition. Following a brief tenure as an Army intelligence officer during World War II, Warfield returned stateside to seek out a career as a music teacher due to anticipation of discrimination. Encouraged by singers Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson to follow his dreams of becoming a singer despite his hesitation, the blossoming singer soon made the first of many Broadway appearances in Marc Blitzstein's Regina. After a remarkable 1950 recital debut at New York's Town Hall, the singer would join a tour of Australia and subsequently sign on with MGM to appear in the filmed remake of Show Boat. Warfield would marry Porgy and Bess co-star Leontyne Price after touring Europe and the U.S. in the stage production in 1952, and though the couple would separate after six years, their divorce wouldn't be finalized until 1972. After his popularity continued to soar in the following decades, Warfield performed to a sold-out Carnegie Hall crowd in 1975 to mark the 25th anniversary of his Big Apple debut, and was honored with a 1984 Grammy for his narration of Aaron Copeland's A Lincoln Portrait. A professor of music and voice department chair at the University of Illinois at Urbania-Champaign as well as Northwestern University in his later years, Warfield would also serve as president of the National Association of Negro Musicians from 1985 to 1990. In addition to his work as an educator, the legendary singer would continue to tour with the Jim Callum Jazz Band in addition to numerous public performances. After suffering a broken neck as the result of a fall in July 2002, Warfield died on August 27 at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He was 82.

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