- Apr 06, 1922 - May 19, 1998
Dorothy Donegan was an American jazz pianist and vocalist, primarily known for performing in the stride piano and boogie-woogie style. She also played bebop, swing jazz, and classical music. Donegan was born and grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and began studying piano in 1928. She took her first lessons from Alfred N. Simms, a West Indian pianist who also taught Cleo Brown. She graduated from Chicago’s DuSable High School, where she studied with Walter Dyett, a teacher who also worked with Dinah Washington, Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons, and Von Freeman. She also studied at the Chicago Musical College and the University of Southern California. In 1942 she made her recording debut. She appeared in Sensations of 1945 with Cab Calloway, Gene Rodgers, and W. C. Fields and was known for her work in Chicago nightclubs. She was a protege of Art Tatum, who called her “the only woman who can make me practice.” She said that Tatum “was supposed to be blind…I know he could see women.” In 1943, Donegan became the first African American to perform at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. She later said of this pathbreaking performance: In the first half I played Rachmaninoff and Grieg and in the second I drug it through the swamp – played jazz. Claudia Cassidy reviewed the concert on the first page of the Chicago Tribune. She said I had a terrific technique and I looked like a Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph.
Famous Song: Dorothy Donegan´s Boogie Woogie