Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - Page 10 News List

Harlem’s Apollo Theater historian looks back at 80 years of music
紐約哈林區阿波羅劇院 精彩八十載

Historian Billy Mitchell poses at the Apollo Theater in the Harlem section of New York on June 11.
歷史學者比利‧米歇爾六月十一日在紐約哈林區的阿波羅劇院留影。

Photos: Reuters
照片:路透社

Few American stages have produced as many music legends as Harlem’s landmark Apollo Theater, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, and not many people know more about its rich past than its long-time historian Billy Mitchell.

Since 1934, the Apollo has launched the careers of many of America’s greatest black artists — legends of blues, jazz and soul, swing, gospel, Motown, funk and hip-hop.

“Before they had success, they started here and went on to become legends,” said Mitchell, 64, who was 13 when he began working there, running errands for performers.

Jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald was a teenager when she won an Apollo amateur night contest in 1934. And, 30 years later, guitarist Jimi Hendrix won one at 22.

In between, the Apollo has showcased jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, singers Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, composer and band leader Duke Ellington, singers James Brown and Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and many more.

Mitchell’s own history is deeply entwined with the Apollo and the legends it has produced. Over the years, he worked as an usher, coordinated amateur nights, guided tours and eventually became the theater historian in the early 1990s.

One of his fondest Apollo memories is the day in 1967 when The Jackson 5 first performed.

“They rocked this stage,” he said, recalling with wonder how 9-year-old Michael Jackson brought the house down.

“That man was a gift, by God,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never seen anyone, before or after, anywhere else, do what Michael did,” he added.

The “Godfather of Soul” James Brown performed at the Apollo more than 200 times and, along with Motown legend Marvin Gaye, helped put Mitchell through college with their generous tips. Brown was always pushing him to read and study hard, he recalls.

TODAY’S WORDS
今日單字

1. usher n.

引座員;接待員 (yin3 zuo4 yuan2; jie1 dai4 yuan2)

例: The usher showed them to their seats.

(引座員帶領他們到座位上。)

2. bring the house down

idiom

得到滿堂彩 (de2 dao4 man3 tang2 cai3)

例: The singer really brought the house down during the concert last night.

(該歌手昨晚在演唱會上得到滿堂彩。)

3. intent adj.

熱切的;專心致志的

(re4 qie4 de5; zhuan1 xin1 zhi4 zhi4 de5)

例: He’s intent on completing his work.

(他正專心於完成工作。)


Mitchell’s tasks involved doing a bit of everything. He made sure B.B. King had a hot meal waiting after each performance. He took food orders, pressed clothes and shined shoes for Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson.

For all the Apollo has given him, Mitchell is intent that he and his family give back. His daughter is currently working part time in the gift shop and over the years his brothers, nephews and grandson have all been employed there.

On the night of June 10, the Apollo celebrated its glorious history with a gala celebration and performances by Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole, The Isley Brothers, Doug E. Fresh, Joss Stone and others.

“This place is more than a concert hall or a performance space,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, a theater supporter. “It is a grand cathedral.”

As Knight appeared on the stage she looked out at the crowd and summed up the sentiment of many of the artists who performed there, and its historian.

“It’s good to be home,” she said.

(Reuters)

美國鮮少有劇院能像正逢八十週年慶的哈林區地標阿波羅劇院般,捧出那樣多的音樂傳奇人物。對劇院八十載風華歲月有長期研究的歷史學者比利‧米歇爾,對劇院瞭解甚深,應無人能出其右。

自一九三四年以來,阿波羅就成為許多美國著名黑人樂手一試身手之首站,音樂類型遍及藍調、爵士、靈魂樂、搖擺樂、福音音樂、摩城黑人音樂、放克與嘻哈等。

現年六十四歲的米歇爾表示:「,他們成名前在此發跡,進而成為傳奇。」米歇爾十三歲就在該劇院幫表演者跑腿。

一九三四年,爵士歌手艾拉‧費茲潔拉在阿波羅劇院的「業餘藝術家之夜」選秀活動勝出,當時的她還是位青少女。三十年後,二十二歲的吉他手吉米‧罕醉克斯也在同樣的選秀活動脫穎而出。

曾在這期間於阿波羅劇院登臺的有:爵士小號手路易斯‧阿姆斯壯、歌手貝西‧史密斯與比莉‧哈樂黛、作曲家兼爵士樂隊首席領班艾靈頓公爵、歌手詹姆士‧布朗與黛安娜‧羅絲與至高無上樂團、史摩基‧羅賓遜與奇蹟合唱團等。

米歇爾的生平與阿波羅劇院及其所創造的傳奇密不可分。多年來,他在劇院擔任引導人員、統整「業餘藝術家之夜」、劇院導覽,與最後在一九九零年代成為一位劇院歷史學者。

回憶阿波羅劇院歷史,最為他所津津樂道,是在一九六七年初次登台的傑克森兄弟合唱團。

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