Few entertainers have ever commanded such depth of artistry in every medium. Fewer still have been rewarded with Broadway’s coveted Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Musical The Wiz), nominated for the London theater’s West End equivalent, the Laurence Oliver Award (Best Actress in a Musical Lady Day), won three Grammy® Awards (1998’s Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal for "Cottontail" Slide Hampton, arranger "Dear Ella", and Best Jazz Vocal Album for "Eleanora Fagan: To Billie with Love from Dee Dee, 2011), and France’s 1998 top honor Victoire de la Musique (Best Jazz Vocal Album), as well as induction into France's Haute Conseil de la Francophonie, Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite, and Officier des Arts et des Lettres.
Bridgewater is an NEA Jazz Master, Doris Duke Artist, ASCAP Champion, Memphis Music Hall of Fame Inductee and recipient of three Honorary Doctorates (Michigan State University, Berklee College of Music, and Elmhurst University). For decades she served as the host of NPR's "JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater," produced by WBGO. She also serves as a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and founded the non- profit program, The Woodshed Network for self-identifying women in jazz.
Denise "Dee Dee" Garrett was born in Memphis on May 27, 1950 to parents Marion Garrett (nee Holliday) and Matthew Garrett. Her father was a trumpeter, educator and radio host "Matt the Platter Cat" on famed WDIA. Exposed to jazz at an early age, Dee Dee grew up with the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley, among others. When the family relocated to Flint, MI, Dee Dee continued to listen to WDIA, maintaining her connection to her birthplace, which later inspired her critically acclaimed 2017 self-produced release "Memphis...Yes, I'm Ready" (DDB Records/Sony Masterworks).
By the age of 16 she was in an R& B vocal trio that would eventually be scouted by Motown Records. The family had relocated to Clinton, Michigan and naturally an audition with nearby Motown was inevitable. But the label turned her down, not for her lack of talent, but because of the groups’ young age. When Dee Dee was 18 years old, she attended Michigan State University and joined saxophonist Andy Courtridge's group. In 1969, she transferred to the University of Illinois, where her exception talent was tapped by John Garvey, the University's Jazz Band Director, who hired her for a tour. In 1970, Denise met and married hard bop trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater (Horace Silver, Max Roach, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, The Loud Minority). Together, the newlyweds relocated to New York.