Today, we learned the terrible news that revered poet and author Maya Angelou has passed away at the age of 86. Your music-nerd friends at Fuse are celebrating her legacy the best way we know how with a look back at her only musical release, 1957's calypso-pop album Miss Calypso.
While not nearly as well known as her autobiographies, essays or poetry, Miss Calypso was recorded before Angelou started her prolific writing career. After ending her marriage to aspiring musician Tosh Angelos in 1954, Angelou began performing in San Francisco nightclubs, dancing and singing to calypso music. Originally performing by her birth name, Marguerite (or Rita) Johnson, she decided to go professionally by Maya Angelou at this time after managers and supporters suggested she needed a more distinctive name for her live show.
Three years later, she recorded and released the LP composed of calypso "oldies" by Nat King Cole and Louis Jordan, plus five tracks Angelou composed herself. At the time, Billboard magazine reviewed the record saying, "Miss Angelou has enough sell in her voice to offer dealers a promising set...handled with finesse." Variety said Angelou's performances were "sizzling" and a "unique creation in the jazz world when everything progressive is expected to be on the cool side."
While you won't find Miss Calypso on iTunes or Spotify, you can find tracks floating around the Internet. Take a listen to album standout "Run Joe" above or the Angelou-composed "Neighbor, Neighbor" below. Listen to more right here.