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Remembering Ida McBeth, Kansas City’s 'queen of jazz and blues'

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In 2016, McBeth received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Here she's pictured playing at the Blue Room in the city's 18th & Vine District.

McBeth, who died Wednesday at age 70, was known for her captivating stage presence and deep, commanding voice. She was a mentor and role model for younger generations of Black women coming up in the Kansas City jazz scene.

For the second time in two days, the Kansas City jazz community has been rocked by the passing of one of its core members.

On Wednesday morning, thelegendary Ida McBeth died at 70.

McBeth was a pioneer in a music scene dominated by men, and paved the way for future generations of Black women artists.

“She was kind. She was gracious. She was an educator, because she wanted women to survive,” local vocalist Mille Edwards told Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date. “She wanted women to be in the scene and in control of their destiny.”

Chuck Haddix, host of KCUR’s The Fish Fry, likened McBeth’s performances to a religious experience.

“You would go see her and it was almost like you were going to church. You're in that room, and she's just mesmerized the audience, like she's preaching the song. It's so much soul from the heart,” Haddix recalled.

Her passing came just a day after Ronald McFadden died. He was one-half of the McFadden Brothers, the tap-dancing team that entertained audiences around the world.

Edwards said McBeth and McFadden are part of a music tradition that helped put Kansas City on the map.

“They loved Kansas City. No matter where they went. They always came home," she said. "Because Kansas City was home.”

  • Chuck Haddix, host of The Fish Fry and director of the Marr Sound Archives
  • Mille Edwards, local vocalist
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As an assistant producer on Up To Date, my goal is to amplify voices of people who serve as pioneers in their respective fields while shedding light on issues that affect underserved communities. I produce daily conversations to uplift and inspire the people of the Kansas City area to make the world a better place. You can reach me at reginalddavid@kcur.org.
Claudia Brancart is an Up To Date producer for KCUR 89.3. She graduated from Pitzer College in Los Angeles where she majored in World Literature and Studio Art. You can reach her at claudiab@kcur.org.
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