Black History Month: Entertainers I Miss

This is the last week of Black History Month and I’d like to honor that. I’ve previously written about Blacks in the history of nephrology and other paths in life. Being a former actor and just having had a visit from a member of my acting community (a safe visit: double masked, hand sanitized, and social distanced.), I got to thinking about Blacks in entertainment who died of kidney disease.  

But first, this is what I included in the upcoming SlowItDownCKD 2020 to explain what Black History Month actually is: 

“As Andrea Wurtzburger wrote in People Magazine (I knew there was a reason I grabbed this first each time I waited in one medical office or another.) in the February 13, 2020… 

‘Black History Month is an entire month devoted to putting a spotlight on African Americans who have made contributions to our country. Originally, it was seen as a way of teaching students and young people about the contributions of Black and African Americans in school, as they had (and still have) been often forgotten or left out of the narrative of the growth of America. Now, it is seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the country, but the world with their activism and achievements.’” 

Now keep in mind that the further back we go, the more people there are that died of kidney disease since treatment was non-existent at first and then limited. Nephrology is a relatively young field of medicine. According to NEJM Resident 360, a nephrology journal for medical students, 

“The initial recognition of kidney disease as independent from other medical conditions is widely attributed to Richard Bright’s 1827 book ‘Reports of Medical Cases,’ which detailed the features and consequences of kidney disease. For the next 100 years or so, the term ‘Bright’s disease’ was used to refer to any type of kidney disease. Bright’s findings led to the widespread practice of testing urine for protein — one of the first diagnostic tests in medicine. 

The study of kidney disease was furthered by William Howship Dickinson’s description of acute nephritis in 1875 and Frederick Akbar Mahomed’s discovery of the link between kidney disease and hypertension in the 1870s. Mahomed’s original sphygmograph, created when he was a medical student, was improved in 1896 by Scipione Riva-Rocci, of Italy, with the use of a cuff to encircle the arm….” 

I’m listening to Art Tatum’s (10/13/09 – 11/5/56) music as I write today’s blog. According to National Public Radio (NPR): 

“One of the greatest improvisers in jazz history, Art Tatum also set the standard for technical dexterity with his classic 1933 recording of ‘Tea for Two.’ Nearly blind, Tatum had artistic vision and ability that made him an icon of jazz piano, a musician whose impact will be felt for generations to come…. 

Although his excessive drinking didn’t affect his playing, it did unfortunately affect his health. Tatum began showing evidence of euremia, a toxic blood condition resulting from a severe kidney disease. On Nov. 5, 1956, Tatum died at age 47, and although his career was relatively short, Tatum’s brilliant playing remains unparalleled and highly influential.” 

As far as I can tell, ‘euremia’ is either an alternative or misspelling of uremia. I could not find it despite multiple sources. Each one reverted to ‘uremia’. 

Have you heard of Ivan Dixon? No? How about the tv series ‘Hogan’s Heroes’? Encyclopedia.com organizes their information a bit differently: 

“Career: Stage, television, and screen actor, 1957-91; film and television director, 1970-93. 

Memberships: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Directors Guild of America; Negro Actors for Action; Screen Actors Guild. 

Awards: Emmy Award nomination, 1967, for The Final War of Olly Winter; received four National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Awards; Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame; National Black Theatre Award; Paul Robeson Pioneer Award, Black American Cinema Society. 

For his achievements on the stage and screen, Dixon was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. He was the recipient of four National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Awards, in addition to the National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award given by the Black American Cinema Society.” 

He died of complications from kidney failure. There seems to be no record of what these complications were, although we can guess. 

Barry White (9/12/44 – 7/4/03), a singer and songwriter whose voice I will always miss, died of a stroke while awaiting a transplant. His kidney disease had been caused by hypertension.  The following is from Biography.com, which has much more information about him. 

“…. Love Unlimited’s success in 1972 can in large part be attributed to White’s throaty vocals in such hits as “Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love.” The group’s success rejuvenated White’s own career, receiving acclaim for such songs as “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” and “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” in 1973 and “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe” and “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” in 1974…. 

During the peak of his career, White earned gold and platinum discs for worldwide sales. The UK singer Lisa Stansfield has often publicly supported White’s work and in 1992, she and White re-recorded a version of Stansfield’s hit, “All Around The World.” During the ’90s, a series of commercially successful albums proved White’s status as more than just a cult figure….” 

To be honest, the only way I could have enjoyed writing this blog more is if these talented people were still with us. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Gail! I was just skimming through your blog but came to a full stop as Barry White snagged my attention. I did not know about his connection to kidney disease. What a fabulous talent. You never confuse Barry White’s voice with anyone else’s.
    Suzanne

    • It’s sad, isn’t it, that this distinctive voice is gone. I’m sorry it was due to kidney disease. Actually, I’m sorry he had to die at all.


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