“Music was my refuge,” the renowned author and poet Maya Angelou once said. “I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
While her powerful speaking voice was instantly recognizable, not everyone remembers that she was a skillful singer as well.
Angelou — born Marguerite Johnson — was a profession calypso dancer in the 1950s, and adopted the stage name “Maya Angelou” to distinguish herself from the competition.
At the age of 29, she cut the 1957 album Miss Calypso, singing her own compositions over guitar, bongos, and congas. The style was en vogue at the time, thanks to artists like Harry Belafonte (“The Banana Boat Song”). In addition to originals like “Donkey City,” “Neighbor, Neighbor” and “Mambo In Africa,” Angelou recorded songs by Nat King Cole (“Calypso Blues”), Louis Jordan (“Run Joe”) and Wilmouth Houdini (“Stone Cold Dead In The Market”) for the album.
The latter is a revenge fantasy about putting an end to an abusive spouse, in which a wife kills beats her husband to death with a frying pan. It’s fairly funny, despite the dark subject matter.