Hadda Brooks (October 29*, 1916 - November 21, 2002), was a noted American pianist, vocalist and composer. She was hailed as the “Queen Of The Boogie” and “Empress Of The Torch Blues.” (*other sources October 21)
Ms. Brooks was born Hadda Riah Hopgood in Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Her father was a law enforcement officer and her mother a physician. At the age of 4, she begged her father for piano lessons and, when told by her prospective teacher that she couldn't begin until her hands were big enough to span an octave, stretched her fingers over the keyboard for a week until she could do it. She remained with that teacher for 20 years, also studying at the Vocational Polytechnic High School, the University of Southern California and Northwestern University.
Hadda got her professional start in Willie Covan's dance studio in Los Angeles, accompanying the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Shirley Temple on the piano.
She made her first record, "Swingin' the Boogie," in 1945, and it was a hit. Bihari started a label, Modern Records, and Ms. Brooks became his first artist. Encouraged by orchestra leader Charlie Barnet, Ms. Brooks practiced singing "You Won't Let Me Go," and the song became her first vocal recording in 1947. A torch singer was born. On the recommendation of Benny Goodman, Ms.
Brooks turned her attention to film, beating out Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn for a role singing to Humphrey Bogart in "In a Lonely Place."
Throughout her life she appeared on the big screen, most recently in "The Thirteenth Floor" in 1999 and "John John in the Sky" in 2000. Other highlights of her life included singing at Hawaii's official statehood ceremony in 1959 and being asked for a private audience with Pope Pius XII. Ms. Brooks finally conceded to rock-'n'-roll and retired in 1971. Sixteen years later, after being profiled in the book "Whatever Became of . . .?", Ms. Brooks came out of retirement and played a new club in Los Angeles and that led to long runs at the Bel-Air Hotel and San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel. And she was asked to record again.
In 1993, Ms. Brooks was presented with the Prestigious Pioneer Award by Bonnie Raitt on behalf of the Smithsonian-based Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
Ms. Brooks once called San Francisco "a city that's always been good to me" and spent several of her last birthdays performing here.
Hadda Brooks died November 21, 2002 at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, following open-heart surgery at age 86.
Called an "American Treasure" by Bonnie Raitt, Ms. Brooks was an enchanting and sultry torch singer, an original "Jazz Diva", that will be sadly missed by her many admirers worldwide. (info mainly from San Francisco Chronicle, 23 Nov 2002)