A Portrait of Al Hibbler
Today we celebrate the career of Al Hibbler. Al Hibbler was an American baritone vocalist famous for singing rhythm and blues and traditional pop music. Born in Mississippi in 1915, Hibbler attended the Arkansas School for the Blind, where he sang in the choir and became interested in jazz.
By the 1940s he had joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and was its only male vocalist. Hibbler also performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, as well as other ensembles, which did not please Ellington. So Hibbler eventually went out on his own, and in the 1950s had several million-selling hits: “Unchained Melody,” “He,” and “After the Lights Go Down Low.”
But the mid-1950s were marked by the start of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era, and the Civil Rights movement. Hibbler took part in the latter, and was arrested several times. Because of this, most record companies dropped him, the one exception being Reprise, Frank Sinatra’s new label.
Some other singers adapted to the changing times by using acting or comedic talents, but Hibbler lacked these gifts. He died in Chicago on April 24, 2001.
Unchained Melody may be found in “I Can Play That!” Pop Hits compiled by Nick Crispin, BRM35076.
If you want to hear about Duke Ellington and other big bands, try
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