We wanted to take the time to pay respect to those who’ve helped shape the music industry as we know it through their monumental artistic contributions as well as the very long lives they’ve led. Living an entire century takes a lot of self-discipline, patience, strong mental and physical health, as well as a commitment to making the most of your time here. Living to be one hundred years old as a musician is something to be applauded for.
7. José Bragato
The Italian-born Argentine cellist, composer, conductor, arranger, and musical archivist José Bragato, lived to be 101 years old. He, like everyone on this list, has survived BOTH world wars. Insane to even think about it! Born on October 12th, 1915, José was famous for his involvement in classical music, having played for many famous orchestras, but mostly, he made a name for himself by adding his cello solos to tango music. The artist pushed the fame of tango to international audiences.
6. Licia Albanese
The Italian-born American soprano Licia Albanese sang more than 400 times at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, being one of its most famous sopranos in the world. Besides her record performance number, what stood out about this marvelous woman was her dedication to give back, having founded The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation. The musical organization founded in 1974 whose scope is to provide assistance to young American and international talent, has assisted hundreds of young artists in achieving their dreams. Licia Albanese was born on July 22nd, 1909, and on October 5th, 1995, President Bill Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Honor for the Arts.
5. Bartolo Alvarez
Born on November 9th 1914, the Puerto Rican musician, orchestra director, record seller, and distributor, was famous for having established Casa Latina in East Harlem, New York in 1948. The record store is still operating AND it was the very first Spanish-spoken music shop opened in the United States. Bartolo Alvarez served the US Army in 1943 as a gunner in Company 112 but he also found a way to play with the Army band. Hunter College, City University of New York’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies recently dedicated a special section to Alvarez’s work.
4. Irving Berlin
The illustrious composer and lyricist is considered to have been one of the greatest songwriters in American history. Born in the Imperial Russia on May 11th, 1888, Irving Berlin moved to US at the age of five. The guy is thought to have been a terrible pianist as he could only play in the key of F-sharp using his custom piano equipped with a transposing lever. He was keen on creating simple hit songs, which he did. You can call Irving the pops of Pop music. He penned over 1500 songs (holy sh*t!), and authored scores for 20 original Broadway shows and 15 original Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. The legend lived to be 101 years old. You can check some of his biggest hit songs on YouTube HERE.
3. Jimmie Davis
This is the man who helped take Country music out of the country. Literally. Born on September 11th, 1899, Jimmie Davis used his music career and fame to reach the governorship of Louisiana, having been elected for two non-consecutive terms from 1944 to 1948 and from 1960 to 1964. He popularized the Country genre (recorded sixty-eight sides for Victor Records from 1929 to 1933) and also starred in 5 five Hollywood movies: Strictly in the Groove (1942), Riding Through Nevada (1942), Frontier Fury (1943), Cyclone Prairie Rangers (1944), and his own life story, Louisiana (1947). He lived to be 101 years old. Check out Jimmie Davis performing live on YouTube HERE.
2. Peggy Gilbert
The American jazz saxophonist and bandleader was born on January 17th, 1905, and lived to be 102 years old. She was already playing multiple instruments for her father’s band at the ridiculously young age of seven, and once moved to Hollywood in her twenties, the lady formed an all-female jazz band in 1933. Peggy Gilbert was a well-known advocate for women musicians, and not just any women either. She went to establish a SENIOR citizen Dixieland jazz group, The Dixie Belles, in the early 1970s and in 1990 the Dixie Belles received the Commitment to Feminism Award from the City of Los Angeles Street Fair.
1. Everett Lee
Everett is currently 104 years old! Born on August 31st, 1916, the musician is the first African American to have conducted a Broadway musical, the first to “conduct an established symphony orchestra below the Mason–Dixon Line“, and the first to have conducted a performance by a major American opera company. One of the coolest things Everett Lee ever did was when in 1947, he founded the interracial orchestra, The Cosmopolitan Symphony Society, made up of “Americans of Chinese, Russian, Jewish, Negro, Italian and Slavic origin”, as well as women. Being met with quite the racism in the States, Everett Lee moved to Germany with his family in 1957. He currently lives in Sweden.
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