Cover image for Mabel Mercer : a life
Mabel Mercer : a life
Haskins, James, 1941-2005.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum, 1987.
Physical Description:
xvii, 217 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML420.M388 H4 1987 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
ML420.M388 H4 1987 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order


Author Notes

Author Jim Haskins was born in Demopolis, Alabama on September 19, 1941. He received a B.A. from Georgetown University in 1960, a B.S. from Alabama State University in 1962, and a M.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1963. After graduation, he became a special education teacher in a public school in Harlem. His first book, Diary of a Harlem School Teacher, was the result of his experience there. He taught at numerous colleges and universities before becoming an English professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville in 1977.

He wrote more than 100 books during his lifetime, ranging from counting books for children to biographies on Rosa Parks, Hank Aaron and Spike Lee. He won numerous awards for his work including the 1976 Coretta Scott King Award for The Story of Stevie Wonder, the 1984 Coretta Scott King Award for Lena Horne, the 1979 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for Scott Joplin: The Man Who Made Ragtime; and the 1994 Washington Post Children's Book Guide Award. He also won the Carter G. Woodson Award for young adult non-fiction for Black Music in America; The March on Washington; and Carter G. Woodson: The Man Who Put "Black" in American History in 1989, 1994, and 2001, respectively. He died from complications of emphysema on July 6, 2005 at the age of 63.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

With the full cooperation of many of Mabel Mercer's close friends, biographer James Haskins is able to present a reasonably detailed picture of the influential singer's life. Although the book never really penetrates the surface to expose the woman underneath, the story it does tell remains a fascinating one. Born in England to a white actress and a black American musician, Mercer came to show business early; her partnership with Bricktop in the 1920s made stars of them both, singing in the heady Paris of Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. While slighting such issues as the racial prejudice that plagued Mercer in her early years and the rumors of her homosexuality, Haskins effectively covers the singer's development into the much-revered stylist who provided a model for both Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. Mercer, who was still drawing crowds in New York nightclubs in the 1970s, died in 1984. This first biography of so important a figure in the history of popular singing is long overdue. Discography, bibliography; to be indexed. PLR. 784.5'092 Mercer, Mabel / Jazz musicians Biography

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is a thin biography of the late British-born cabaret chanteuse-diseuse who made a reputation in France and spent the major part of her career in New York, admired by the likes of Billy Holiday and Frank Sinatra. Haskins (Bricktop, The Cotton Club) has particular trouble with Mercer's pre-Paris years, perhaps because she was always reticent about her childhood. The illegitimate daughter of a black American musician father and a white British music-hall performer mother, she was raised by her grandmother until sent to a convent school. She performed on the stage in England with no great success and then went to Paris, where she was helped to stardom by the legendary Bricktop. At the outbreak of World War II, Mercer came to the U.S. where her fame grew slowly but steadily. She died in 1984. Photos not seen by PW. (November 24) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Mabel Mercer was the daughter of a Welsh songstress and a black American musician. She sang in the 1920s at the famous club in Paris owned by Bricktop, moved to New York in 1938, and spent the war years performing in small clubs on 52nd Street. Though the rock phenomenon reduced her to collecting unemployment insurance, she rebounded in two concerts with Bobby Short in the late 1960s. Her popularity continued through her semi-retirement until her death in 1984. Haskins, who has written a number of other biographies of singers, draws heavily on sources that include his own Bricktop ( LJ 8/83) and Whitney Balliett's articles on Mercer in The New Yorker to create an anecdotal and appreciative portrait. William Brockman, Drew Univ. Lib., Madison, N.J. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.