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Dee Dee Bridgewater: Dee Dee on Billie

By Published: February 22, 2010

AAJ: And how does that make you feel?

DDB: Proud. Very proud. Like I'm doing the right thing. And I'm very proud because these were all my musical ideas, and I produced them. I oversaw the artwork too; I tell the graphic artist what I want and he goes about trying to deliver what it is that I'm looking for. And to see all of my albums and the artwork, and the attention they get, from the packaging to what's inside—the recording, the mixing, mastering—and to know that I was involved in the whole process and this is the end result, and to be able to make those claims honestly: it's a beautiful thing. And to own it: I own those masters, all of them. So I'm going to leave my little legacy to my family, and that's a wonderful thing. And now releasing that catalog, oh, it's a beautiful thing, are you kidding? I'm very proud. I am one of few, even as a producer. It's pretty cool. I've had conversations with musicians where I have asked them why they don't produce themselves; you know what you want. The only thing that I can put my finger over the record companies on is marketing: how are they going to market this product, how are they going to support it, the marketing, the tour support—those kinds of things. But the album itself, that's mine. If there's a mistake on it, it's mine.

AAJ: Please tell us about living in Europe.

DDB: Living in France is the best thing that I've ever did. That was probably the best move that I've ever made, of all of my moves. I like to say that I grew up in France. I became a woman in France. I really found myself and my voice on many levels: it was the first time I lived alone—and bringing my daughters over, and dealing with the culture and the language—and being embraced by that country to the extent that I had been—being called the new Josephine Baker because of all the new achievements that I made over there, to work myself to being kind of known, to being one of their stars, you know? I'm a big celebrity in France. Anywhere I go, people know who I am. I have a very strong American-French following.

There are always French people at my concerts, no matter where I go in the world. So now I am bilingual because of living over there. My children are bilingual. I could have got dual nationality, like my son, but even though I love France, my home is the United States. I am an American. And I hate that word, ex-patriot, being applied to me. Because an ex-patriot is someone who left for political reasons, and I did not leave for political reasons but for specific reasons: I was offered to do the play about Billie Holiday and all of that. And I guess I have a lot of French in me in the sense of being a renegade. The French are very outspoken. When I first moved there, I was shocked by the strikes and how much striking was going on, but now I think it's a beautiful thing. When they're not happy with their government, they hit the streets! When we're not happy with our government, we moan and groan in our houses, but we don't hit the streets. I've always been outspoken. I've always been active. I have always supported organizations that fight racism, abuse, political freedom.

I have worked with Amnesty International, with Unesco for a long time, Unicef, I am a UN Goodwill Ambassador now. I speak my mind [laughs]. And the record companies ask me to shut up, to not be so political. And I was warned by my record company during the Bush administration that I needed to calm down my criticism of this government because I risked being blacklisted. And I was, like, "He doesn't even know what jazz is!" What about freedom of speech? I call it a dictatorship, the whole patriot act. You can't criticize the government? Our capitalism is out of control. Look at the economic situation today. Everybody was living beyond their means, everybody was living on credit, everybody! It's out of control. Something had to bring it to its knees. The greed, the corporate greed. What a shame that the most powerful country in the world has the worst health system in the world. And on education, our children don't even know how to spell, let alone interact in a social situation. Because of all of this new technology, nobody talks anymore! Oh, don't get me started! Gather 'round! [laughs].

Selected Discography

Dee Dee Bridgwater, Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee (Decca, 2010)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Red Earth (Emarcy, 2007)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, J'ai Deux Amours (Sovereign Artists, 2005)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, This is New (Verve, 2002)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Live at Yoshi's (Verve, 2000)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dear Ella (Verve, 1997)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Prelude to a kiss (Verve, 1996)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Love and Peace (Verve, 1995)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Keeping Tradition (Verve, 1993)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, In Montreux (Verve, 1993)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Victim of Love with Ray Charles (Verve, 1990)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Live in Paris (Verve, 1987)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dee Dee Bridgewater (Electra, 1980)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bad for me (Electra, 1979)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Just family (Electra, 1978)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dee Dee Bridgewater (Atlantic, 1976)

Dee Dee Bridgewater, Afro Blue (Trio Records, 1974)

Photo Credits

Pages 1, 4: Philippe Pierangeli

All Other Photos: Jose Horna

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