Ida McBeth, a jazz great and singing sensation, has died following an extended illness, aged 70.
“She was a Kansas City musical force and light, unmatched in melody and soul,” the American Jazz Museum said in a release March 1 announcing McBeth’s death. “May the warmth of her smile and tone carry us through.”
She was a mainstay of the jazz museum’s Blue Room music club for 20 years.
Over the years, her repertoire included pop-style ballads, jazz and blues, show tunes, funk, R&B, gospel and well known standards.
Critics described her as “a jazz singer,” “a blues singer,” “a pop singer” and “a cabaret singer.” Still others referred to her as “a story teller,” “a professor emeritus of body language,” “a consummate actress,” and “the complete entertainer.”
“Song stylist” was the title McBeth preferred.
By age 5, McBeth knew she wanted to be a singer. Born in Kansas City, KS, she was provided early exposure to a variety of talented vocalists by her mother. These singers included such greats as Nancy Wilson, Arthur Prysock, Nat King Cole, Bill Withers, Gladys Knight and Sarah Vaughan.
As a child, McBeth took an active part in the music program of her church along with school choirs and dance bands. Her professional singing career began at age 16.
After graduating from high school, however, Ida was undecided about a career in music, so she enrolled at the University of Kansas to study nursing.
In 1972, her desire to be a singer outweighed any previous doubts about a career as a musician. She left college to join Dick Halligan of Blood, Sweat & Tears, and soon recorded her first album in Los Angeles.
McBeth moved to California in 1973, allotting herself six months to attain her goals. Within four weeks of her arrival, she was booked to sing six nights a week at a nightclub in Bel Air.
Over the years, McBeth received many honors and awards.
In 1984, she was named by the Kansas City-based International Jazz Hall of Fame as both “Best Female Jazz Vocalist” and “Entertainer of the Year.” In 1990 Kansas City Mayor Richard Berkeley awarded her a special proclamation designating April 27, 1990, as “Ida McBeth’s 20th Anniversary Day.” And also in 1990, Ida was named as one of Kansas City’s “People of the Year” by Ingram’s Magazine.
Other achievements have included performing the national anthem for the presidential nomination of Al Gore at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles; Kansas City’s birthday bash at Arrowhead Stadium with Kenny Rogers and Walter Cronkite, as well as performing at the Smithsonian Institute in 2001. Ida was Crowned Queen of the Kansas City, Kansas Blues Street Festival for 2005 and given the key to the city. She was voted “Best of R&B / Soul” in the Pitch Readers Poll for both 2004 and 2005.
McBeth contributed her talent to various charities and community services: the American Cancer Society, the Nova Center for autistic children, the Stop Violence Coalition, the American Diabetes Association, and others.
McBeth is survived by her son Jason. Services have not yet been announced.