Night & Day Archives » Night & Day

The Birth of Le Jazz Hot

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How many lives can a St. Louis girl live, anyway? Josephine Baker packed several into her 68 years. Born Freda Josephine McDonald in the Gateway City on June 3, 1906, Baker married her second husband, from whom she took her famous surname, at age fifteen. She'd already learned to endure the racism ubiquitous in American life at the time. Dancing was art form and coping mechanism, and it bought her ticket out of St. Louis to New York City — and ultimately, in 1925, Paris.

France offered more hospitable ground. Respected now rather than patronized, Baker quickly became an international superstar via her legendary Parisian revue performances. We can revisit this gilded period in Franco-American cultural synthesis with a major celebration of the centennial of our native daughter's birth, Josephine Baker: Image and Icon at the Sheldon Art Galleries (3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www.sheldonconcerthall.org). The exhibit uses vintage photos, posters, drawings, prints, paintings and related ephemera to bring Baker's reign as the queen of the Jazz Age to life for contemporary viewers. Josephine Baker: Image and Icon is free and runs through Saturday, August 26.
April 28-Aug. 26

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