Dee Dee Bridgewater was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Marion and Matthew Garrett. They relocated to Flint, Michigan, where Dee Dee lived until completing high school. She started out singing in school talent shows and with local jazz bands. During her first years in college she began singing with big bands, which lead to her work with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Band. At this time,she met and married trumpeter/composer Cecil Bridgewater.
After touring the US, Europe, USSR and Japan, the couple had a child and divorced. Dee Dee then garnered the role of Glinda in the Broadway production of “The Wiz”, earning a Tony Award. She then married director Gilbert Moses and moved to Los Angeles, where she did some acting and released several hit albums. She and Gilbert had a child. The couple moved to Virgina Beach, Virginia, where she starred in the soap “A Different World.” Upon the couple’sreturn to Los Angeles, Dee Dee got a leading role in the LA production of “Sophisticated Ladies” (starring Gregory Hines, Hinton Battle and others).
Dee Dee remained with the company on the world tour. When Dee Dee separated from her second husband, she relocated to Paris, France, and rekindled her career as a jazz artist. Since her move to Europe, she has been internationally recognized as a creative force in the jazz world, honored with international awards and recently received two Grammy awards for her tribute album “Dear Ella.” Dee Dee currently lives in France with her husband and has three children.
Only a handful of entertainers have ever commanded such depth of artistry in every medium. Fewer still have been rewarded with Broadway‘s coveted Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Musical – The Wiz), nominated for the London theater’s West End equivalent, the Laurence Oliver Award (Best Actress in a Musical – Lady Day), won two Grammy Awards (1998’s Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal for “Cottontail” – Slide Hampton, arranger – “Dear Ella”), and France’s 1998 top honor Victoire de la Musique (Best Jazz Vocal Album).
As a sparkling ambassador for jazz, she bathed in its music before she could walk. Her mother played the greatest albums of Ella Fitzgerald, whose artistry provided an inspiration for Dee Dee throughout her career. Her father was a trumpeter who taught music – to Booker Little, Charles Lloyd and George Coleman, among others. It’s the kind of background that leaves its mark on an adolescent, especially one who appeared solo and with a trio as soon as she was able. Dee Dee’s other vocation, that of globetrotter, reared its head when she toured the Soviet Union in 1969 with the University of Illinois Jazz Band. A year later, she followed her then husband, Cecil Bridgewater, to New York.
Dee Dee made her phenomenal New York debut in 1970 as the lead vocalist for the band led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, one of the premier jazz orchestras of the time. These New York years marked an early career in concerts and on recordings with such giants as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach and Roland Kirk, and rich experiences with Norman Connors, Stanley Clarke and Frank Foster’s “Loud Minority.”
Dee Dee doesn’t care much for labels, and in 1974 she jumped at the chance to act and sing on Broadway where her voice, beauty and stage presence won her great success and a Tony Award for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz. This began a long line of awards and accolades as well as opportunities to work in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris and in London where she garnered the coveted ‘Laurence Olivier’ Awardnomination as Best Actress for her tour de force portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holiday in Stephen Stahl’s Lady Day. Performing the lead in equally demanding acting/singing roles as Sophisticated Ladies, Cosmopolitan Greetings, Black Ballad, Carmen Jazz and the musical Cabaret (the first black actress to star as Sally Bowles), she secured her reputation as a consummate entertainer.
In October 1999, Dee Dee joined the battle against world hunger. Appealing for international solidarity to finance global grass-roots projects, the FAO’s Ambassadors aid in developing self-reliance in long-term conservation and management of sustainable agriculture, rural development and the conservation and management of natural resources.
Dee Dee continues to bring her message to listeners. NPR’s JazzSet© with Dee Dee Bridgewater is the jazz lover’s ears and eyes on the world of live music. It presents today’s best jazz artists in performance on stages around the world, taking listeners to Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as Marciac in the French countryside and across the North American continent from Montreal to Monterey.