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Mary Lou Williams
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    (May 8, 1910-May 28, 1981)
    Born in Atlanta, Georgia
    Raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Died in Durham, North Carolina
    Recipient, Guggenheim Fellowship (1972, 1977)
    Inductee, Jazz Hall of Fame (1990)
    Succumbed to bladder cancer at 71
    She initially married at 17, and divorced 15 years later.
    She never officially divorced second husband noted trumpeter Harold 'Shorty' Baker.
    At once time she worked transporting corpses for an undertaker.
    In the 1950s, she ceased performing, ensconcing herself in Catholicism.
    Her first public piano performance was at 6, when she played to help take care of 10 half-siblings.
    Two priests and Dizzy Gillespie convinced her to return to the stage.
    She created the Bel Canto Foundation which assisted artists recovering from drug addiction in their return to music.
    She mentored Theolonius Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
    She wrote and arranged countless songs for Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington.
    Toward the end of her life, she stated, 'I did it, didn't I? Through muck and mud.'

Credit: Black Chic

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