In honor of UK Black History Month, today’s Doodle celebrates the 122nd birthday of Adelaide Hall, a jazz singer who is widely recognised for introducing scat singing during the Harlem Renaissance. The American-born, UK-based entertainer had a record-breaking career that spanned more than 70 years. The Doodle artwork was illustrated by London-based guest artist Hannah Ekuwa Buckman.
Hall was born on this day in 1901 in Brooklyn, New York. Adelaide’s father taught her and her sister piano from a young age. After the tragic deaths of her father and sister, Adelaide had no choice but to support herself and her mother. She began her career singing in the chorus line for Shuffle Along (1921), a popular all-Black musical on Broadway that helped establish African American show business. In 1925, Hall embarked on a European tour for Chocolate Kiddies playing in numerous cities including Hamburg, Geneva, Paris, and Vienna. The show was a resounding international success. Later, she returned to Manhattan and continued performing on Broadway’s biggest stages.
Her breakout moment came in 1927 when she hummed along to a show tune by Duke Ellington. The jazz star was entranced by her wordless yet emotive melody and asked her to record it with his band. A year later, that same song, Creole Love Call, landed on the American Billboard charts at #19 — and just like that, scat singing was born. It wasn’t long before Adelaide Hall became a household name in both the U.S. and Europe.
Soon after, Hall joined the cast for Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928. The musical ran for more than 500 performances and attracted over a million viewers before moving to the Moulin Rouge in Paris. The audiences in Europe welcomed her with open arms, so much so that she decided to permanently move to the U.K. in 1938. Her international success only grew from there.
Hall’s entertainment career spanned an impressive eight decades — in fact, she currently holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s most enduring recording artist. Her songs continue to move listeners with each note and lyric, and her legacy lives on in the hearts of many.
Happy birthday, Adelaide Hall!
Special thanks to Adelaide Hall’s estate for their collaboration on this project. Below, Marisa Lewis, a relative of Adelaide, shares a statement about today’s Doodle on behalf of the family.
I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Google for embarking on this project and allowing me to celebrate my family member, Adelaide Hall, during the UK's Black History Month. Adelaide was a true pioneer and possessed a rare gift—a voice that could move mountains and a talent for dance that enchanted audiences worldwide. Instilled in her by her parents' tutelage, she harnessed her natural gifts of perfect pitch, dance, and charisma, determined to support her household. Little did she know that her unwavering work ethic, creativity, passion, and humility would pave the way for a once-in-a-lifetime career and an enduring legacy.
She ushered in the era of scat music, influencing genres from jazz to pop, R&B, and hip-hop. Her legs, which personally taught Queen Elizabeth II the "Charleston," were once insured for an impressive sum of $500,000! Her era saw her rise as one of the wealthiest and most beloved black women in America and the UK.
She played a vital role in discovering and or mentoring artists such as Art Tatum, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and many others, showcasing her commitment to nurturing talent and African-American culture. Today, thanks to Google, her legacy is being reintroduced to a new generation, continuing to inspire young black girls, musicians, and anyone facing adversity to bring their dreams to fruition.
Though I was only five years old and living in America when Addie passed away, I was always captivated by the stories my grandmother shared about her. Adelaide instilled a deep sense of pride and a lifelong passion for music and black history. It fills me with pride to know that even today, on what would have been her 122nd birthday, people from around the world continue to enjoy her performances and music. I'm delighted by the anecdotes of her sense of humor, kidlike spirit, and lasting impact as a mentor and friend to many. Her ability to remain a class-act professional, a diligent worker, and a dedicated community member in Britain remains a source of inspiration to me and for us all.
So, let's cheer for the "Sophisticated Lady" herself, Ms. Adelaide Hall.
Happy Birthday, Addie. We love and miss you dearly.
- Marisa Lewis
Early Doodle Drafts
Guest Artist Q&A with Hannah Buckman
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by British guest artist Hannah Buckman. Below, she shares her thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: Adelaide's story is incredibly meaningful to me as an artist because it exemplifies the power of creative expression to impact culture and inspire change. I'm drawn to black women who have used their artistic talents to shine brightly and influence society. Their stories not only resonate with me on a personal level but also are so inspiring for my own creative work. I believe that by showcasing the talent and creativity of people like Adelaide through art, we can continue to celebrate their contributions and raise awareness of their impact.
Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?
A: When I was first approached about the project, I felt really excited. It was as if the seeds I had planted in my creative journey were manifesting and growing! It feels like quite a milestone moment in my career. Learning about Adelaide's story and her profound influence on other soul singers, such as Billie Holiday, was fascinating. I was particularly inspired by the impact she had on her own family, including her granddaughter, who now runs her estate and is a musician herself. This project presented an opportunity to explore and celebrate Adelaide's legacy and I'm so grateful to have been a part of it.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: There are some videos from the early 1940s of people doing the Lindy Hop that I am obsessed with, I wanted to channel that energy and passion when working on the doodle really helped. I loved looking at paintings by African-American artist Archibald Motely, and watching the film 'Passing' also helped me immerse myself in the vibe of the Harlem Renaissance, the era Adelaide was most active. Of course, seeing videos of Adelaide's performances was a wonderful source of inspiration.
Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: I hope the doodle sends a message of joy, inspiration and empowerment to other aspiring artists and creative people, particularly black women. I want it to encourage them that their voice matters and that anything is possible!