The year was 1972 and I moved to Greenville and found a little gem of a jazz club named Art Ark. It was on Marquette just off Academy. It was owned and operated by two brothers, one the host and bartender, the other the cook. This club was way ahead of its time: It had a changing art show, great food and a comfortable atmosphere where blacks and whites got together to listen to jazz (in fact the only jazz in town) and became true friends. There was this little 80-pound young lady there who could really belt them out. That young lady was Loretta Holloway, A.K.A., The First Lady of Song. She was at that venue until in 1977 when she took wing and flew off to Chicago, the same year I took off to live in New York City.
Loretta and I have more in common than being singers. We are both back in the Greenville area now, and we both have been TEDx presenters. I was particularly, pleased, then, to be asked to write for the TEDxGreenville blog about what Loretta has been up to since being part of Greenville’s very first TEDx in 2010.
“I had never heard of TEDx,” says Holloway, “and I’m not sure how they found me. I believe someone saw me at Centre Stage and invited me to do TEDx.” They were interested in her doing the lynching protest song, Strange Fruit, a song synonymous with Billie Holliday. Holloway delivered a stripped-bare version of it acappella.
Since TEDx, Holloway has continued to receive accolades. On Dec 17, 2011, she was officially declared South Carolina’s First Lady of Song by the South Carolina Senate. Dec 18 was the premiere of Reverend Scrooge: The Movie, which Loretta co-produced and starred in, so Belton, SC (where Holloway lives) literally rolled out the red carpet for a two-day event. People who had never been to Belton came to the historic Depot and the amount of tourism that followed as a result of those two nights was just phenomenal. This pleased Holloway because she is always an enthusiastic ambassador for Belton.
Then on Dec 20, 2011, Holloway was officially declared an Anderson County Treasure by proclamation of the Anderson County Council.
Later this month, Holloway will be in New York City to shoot a movie, Clipped Wings, They Do Fly, a film in which she has a cameo playing herself and singing an original song called Ordinary People, a techno song she first wrote in 1997, but wrote an entirely different musical arrangement for it. Says Holloway, “It now has a universal sound, which is exactly what I wanted. I could actually see myself on stage accepting a Grammy for it.”
Holloway is also in the process of forming Loretta Holloway’s Foundation for the Preservation of the Performing Arts to teach the younger generation what to do and what not to do to ready themselves for a professional stage.
Holloway’s continuing passion for music is obvious. She sums it up best: “Music can make us all one. For a moment, we are at peace and civilized. Music has that power.”
Loretta’s TEDxGreenville 2010 performance.
With this post, one in a series of past TEDxGreenville presenter updates, we hope to answer questions that we’ve asked a lot and have heard from many of you, So, they shared their idea/performance, what then? What have they been up to? Where are they now?
Jean Calvert , a 2013 TEDxGreenville performer, is a jazz and blues singer as well as freelance writer based in Greenville, South Carolina, where she lives with her significant other Tony and their two cats. She can be seen at restaurants and clubs in the region as well as in New York City, and is currently co-producing Viva Les Divas at the Warehouse Theatre, including the upcoming show on February 9th.