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Desmond Adolphus Dacres (1941–2006) by David Corio, 1985 Getty Images

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Dacres, Desmond Adolphus [known as Desmond Dekker] (1941–2006), singer and songwriter, was born on 16 July 1941 in St Andrew, on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica. Little is known about his childhood except that after his mother's early death his father, desiring a proper education for his son, sent him to live with relatives in the quiet country town of ...

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Maxine Daniels (1930–2003) by Peter Symes, 1987 © Peter Symes

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Daniels, Maxine [real name Gladys Daniels; née Gladys Lynch] (1930–2003), singer, was born at 3 Raine Street, Stepney, London, on 2 November 1930, the ninth of thirteen children of Oscar Lynch (1882/3–1970), a seaman who served in the merchant navy during the First World War and who was known after 1932 as ...

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Dickerson, Isaac Perry (1850/1852–1900), singer and preacher, was born into slavery in Wytheville, in south-west Virginia's Appalachian Mountains, probably in July 1850 or in 1852 (sources differ). His formal schooling started as a teenager, following emancipation in 1865, and in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he worked for a Jewish shopkeeper whose son taught him to read and write. In 1867 he enrolled at ...

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Hall [married name Hall-Hicks], Adelaide Louise Estelle (1901–1993), jazz and cabaret singer, was born on 20 October 1901 in Brooklyn, New York, the elder daughter of William Arthur Hall, a piano and singing teacher at the Pratt Institute, New York, of African-American and Dutch descent, and his wife, ...

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Adelaide Louise Estelle Hall (1901–1993) by Walery, c. 1930 Getty Images – Walery

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Melly, (Alan) George Heywood (1926–2007), writer and singer, was born on 17 August 1926 at The Grange, St Michael's Hamlet, Toxteth, Liverpool, the elder son and eldest of three children of Francis Heywood Melly (1900–1961), wool broker, and his wife, Edith Maud (Maudie), ...

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(Alan) George Heywood Melly (1926–2007) by Maggi Hambling, 1998 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Rutling, Thomas (1854–1915), singer, was born in Wilson county, Tennessee, USA, on 24 December 1854, into slavery. His father had either run away or been sold before his birth, and his mother was sold when he was three; the fates of both parents were unknown to him. He and two siblings (an older brother and older sister) moved to a new plantation when their master's daughter married. He began working in the fields when he was eight, but soon became a household servant. In 1865, freed by Union soldiers, he joined his brother and sister in ...

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Elisabeth Margaret Welch (1904–2003) by unknown photographer, 1944 collection of Stephen Bourne

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Welch [née Welsh], Elisabeth Margaret (1904–2003), singer and actress, was born on 27 February 1904 at West 61st Street, New York. Her father, John Wesley Welsh, was born in Havre de Grace, Harford, Maryland, about 1860, of mixed African-American and American Indian ancestry (his mother came from the Lenape tribe in ...