The Jazz, Blues, Gospel & Ann Arbor African-American Community Story Of Joan Belgrave

Feb 24, 2017

About 13 years ago, a prodigal daughter returned to Ann Arbor.  Singer Joan Bow grew up in Ann Arbor but decided to make her musical mark in Los Angeles.  She returned to our community and immediately impressed us with her vocal prowess and poise.  One of those most impressed was Detroit trumpet legend, Marcus Belgrave.  Today we know her as Joan Belgrave.  The two married about 11 years ago and were a dynamic musical presence in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and New York City.  

    Like many young singers, Joan began her career in the Baptist church. At a very young age, she began singing lead in the choir. She also entered the world of classical voice under University of Michigan tenor and professor, Dr. Willis C. Patterson.  Yet jazz was the music that excited her most.  In Los Angeles, she honed her skills as a producer, songwriter, and music business manager.    She brought those skills back to Ann Arbor and Detroit and applied them to her work with Marcus Belgrave.  The quality of her work was recognized with a Grammy nomination for her original tune, Excitable.   Today, Joan is a lead vocalist of the Motown Legends Gospel Choir where her roots run deep. 

We were honored that Joan Belgrave could visit WEMU’s studio for a Black History Month conversation and share not only her original music but that of her significant influences – Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.  Joan also shared personal insight into those who mentored her at the Ann Arbor Community Center and through the Ann Arbor Public Schools. 

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Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

 

— Linda Yohn is the WEMU Music Director, and host of 89.1 Jazz. On twitter @LindaYohn or email her at studio@wemu.org