Even with 14 million albums sold, 80 recordings produced and 40 years of collaboration with beloved composers and musicians, soprano Barbara Hendricks remains a steadfast anti-diva.
Take that Jessye!
The daughter of an African American Methodist minister and a schoolteacher in segregated Arkansas in the ’50s, Hendricks grew up to be one of the greatest operatic sopranos of the world, known internationally not only for her talents as a vocalist but also for her compassion as a human rights activist.
Now the story is told.
Lifting My Voice: A Memoir by Barbara Hendricks (Chicago Review Press, $32.95) is the charming self-portrait of one of the great female vocalists of our time. Beginning with her childhood in the Jim Crow South, Barbara traces her path from the Juilliard School of Music to the opera houses of the world, and later in life, to the United Nations as a Goodwill Ambassador. Growing up witnessing first-hand the painful struggle for civil rights changed the way Barbara saw herself in the world. Viewing historical events like The Little Rock Nine entering desegregated Central High School forced her to question at a young age how people learn to live in harmony together. As an adult, her humanitarian work with refugees around the world has defined her as much as her beautiful voice—singing for children in ghettos and serving as Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency for over twenty-six years.
While her impact on music is unquestionable, she has also lifted her voice in defense of human rights and has made a significant difference in the lives of countless refugees—from survivors of Cambodia’s killing fields, to the Rwandan genocide, to sniper alley in Sarajevo.
Down-to-earth and straightforward whether singing Mozart or Negro Spirituals, Hendricks has remained true to herself—shattering stereotypes by, above all, putting truth into her art and her life. Her long-awaited memoir Lifting My Voice is a warm, engaging, and honest self-portrait of a great woman of our time who has gone her own way as a woman, as a mother, as an artist and as a citizen.