Blog post update: Sadly the Lindy Hop/Jazz/Cabaret community lost the beloved Dawn Hampton on Sept 25th, 2016. She was truly an awe inspiring woman who achieved so much in her life. What she gave to the Lindy Hop world alone will never ever be forgotten. RIP Dawn, Toronto dancers will never ever forget you. “The Light is On”
Blog Post Originally posted Aug 12, 2015:
Now some of you might be asking “Who exactly is Dawn Hampton?”
Well let TLH help with that, with our “15 Awesome facts about Dawn Hampton“.
1. Dawn was born in 1928, in Middletown Ohio and was one of 12 children in her family.
2. Her father Clark Deacon Hampton, Sr., had a family band and vaudeville act, which was part of a traveling carnival. Dawn grew up listening to the music of the family band, “Deacon Hampton’s Pickaninnys”.
3. Dawn began performing at the age of 3 and two years later sang “He Takes Me to Paradise” (Source).
4. When she was very young, she wanted to be a ballet dancer then she found out that ballet does not swing (source).
5. In the mid 1950s Dawn and her sisters became the “Hampton Sisters” after several of their brothers went off to study music. They had a very long career together.
6. 1958 Dawn joined the cast of the Off-Broadway hit show, “Greenwich Village, U.S.A.” The show ran for a year at New York’s legendary “The Bon Soir.” An original cast album of the show features several solo tracks by Dawn.
7. During the early 60’s, Dawn worked as the house singer at the Lion’s Den. The Lion’s Den was also the scene of a singer’s talent competition. Barbara Streisand relates in a Vanity Fair interview that one of her first times singing on stage was at one of these competitions. She tells how she was a little unnerved, because she came on stage after Dawn, “and the lusty applause for Dawn Hampton [was] ringing in my ears.”
8. Surgery in 1964 to her vocal cords saw Dawn lose most of her vocal range BUT she never lost her eagerness or ability to perform and her optimistic spirit.
9. Dawn spent much of the next 20 years performing as a cabaret singer in clubs around New York City. Reviewers called her a “singer’s singer” and dubbed her the “Queen of Cabaret.”
10. Dawn is also talented in writing music and lyrics: In 1989 Dawn collaborated with pianist/performer Mark Nadler, writing music and lyrics for the honky-tonk mini-opera “Red Light,” which was given the Manhattan Association of Cabarets (MAC) Award in 1990. Dawn and Mark also collaborated on “An Evening with Dawn Hampton,” which enjoyed an extended run at “Don’t Tell Mama.” Dawn also wrote the music and lyrics for the play “Madame C. J. Walker.”
Lastly, Dawn even wrote a book with her Niece “Two Penny Soap Opera”.
11. 1992-Dawn appeared with Frankie Manning in the Movie “Malcom X“.
12. In the late 90s and into the early 00s, Hampton took advantage of the craze for swing dance by bringing to the scene her smooth style and theatrical presence that has brought her international acclaim. She has never stopped since those early days.
13. Dawn lives in NYC and can be found in New York City dancing and listening to some of the best swing bands around.
14. Dawn and her family are in a documentary called “The Unforgettable Hampton Family” that aired in 2011 (click on image to watch doc).
15. Dawn has been known to answer her phone saying “God Is Good. The Light Is On!” (source).
Watching Dawn dance heightens the experience of merely listening to jazz and reunites the relationship between music and movement. In Dawn’s own words, “The light IS on!”
Check out Dawn’s talk at our Sunday of TOWLHD, as well as watch her dance dance dance 🙂