Singer Ruth Brown, whose recordings of "Teardrops in My Eyes," "5-10-15 Hours" and "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" shot her to rhythm-and-blues stardom in the 1950s, has died. She was 78.
Brown, who later in life won a Grammy and a Tony, died Friday of complications from a stroke and heart attack at a Las Vegas-area hospital, said Lindajo Loftus, a publicist for the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, which Brown helped establish.
"Ruth was one of the most important and beloved figures in modern music," singer Bonnie Raitt said in a statement. "You can hear her influence in everyone from Little Richard to Etta (James), Aretha (Franklin), Janis (Joplin) and divas like Christina Aguilera today."
She later crossed over into rock 'n' roll with some success with "Lucky Lips" and "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'," a song she co-wrote with Bobby Darin.
But as R&B and rock 'n' roll fell out of style in the late 1950s, Brown and her musical contemporaries were forced into retirement. She spent most of the 1960s raising her two sons alone and earning a living as a maid, school bus driver and teacher.
Brown enjoyed a career renaissance in the mid-70s when she began recording blues and jazz tunes for a variety of labels and found success on the stage and in movies.
She won acclaim in the R&B musical "Staggerlee" and won a Tony Award for best actress in the Broadway revue "Black and Blue."
She also played a feisty deejay in the 1988 cult movie "Hairspray." A year later, she won a Grammy for best jazz vocal performance for the album "Blues on Broadway."
Brown continued to perform and record in her later years, becoming a popular host of National Public Radio's "Harlem Hit Parade."
"Checking In" (1981) TV Series .... Betty
Shake, Rattle and Rock! (1994) (TV) .... Ella
Black and Blue (1993) (TV)
- Hallelujah (1993) TV Episode .... Mrs. Sherman
TV GUEST APPEARANCES
"The Jeffersons" .... Betty (1 episode, 1981)
- Florence's New Job: Part 2 (1981) TV Episode .... Betty
- Rap with Ruthie (1979) TV Episode .... Leona
- Leona, the New Neighbor (1979) TV Episode .... Leona Wilson
THE LEAGUE OF THEMSELVES
B.B. King: The Blues Summit (1995) (TV) .... Herself
The History of Rock 'N' Roll, Vol. 1 (1995) (TV) .... Herself
Abbey Lincoln: You Gotta Pay the Band (1993) (TV) .... Herself
"Great Performances": 'Ira Gershwin at 100: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall' .... Herself