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In Memoriam: Queen Bey

Apr 26, 2024
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The American Jazz Museum mourns the loss of one of the most captivating voices, Queen Bey (Blythe), who passed away peacefully on Monday, April 22, 2024


Chloe Willett

The American Jazz Museum mourns the loss of one of the most captivating voices, Queen Bey (Blythe), who passed away peacefully on Monday, April 22, 2024. Born and raised in the heart of Kansas City, Queen's passion for music ignited from an early age, nurtured by her education at Sumner Academy, where she honed her craft and laid the foundation for her illustrious career.

Queen Bey was more than just a jazz performer; she was an artist and jazz educator whose influence stretched far beyond the stage. With a career spanning film, theater, and music, she left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Kansas City and beyond.

The New York Times recognized Queen Bey as “one of the best-known jazz artists from Kansas City,” alongside luminaries such as Charlie Parker and Count Basie. Her wide repertoire of jazz and blues standards, as well as innovative compositions, drew from her firsthand experiences working with legends of the genre.

Variety magazine praised Queen's style, describing it as "a natural and understated approach to the material" that consistently pleased crowds wherever she performed. Throughout her career, Queen shared the stage with icons like B.B. King, The Platters, and the late jazz pianist Erroll Garner, earning rave reviews from national publications for her magnetic performances.

In addition to her musical achievements, Queen Bey was a trailblazer in promoting the heritage of jazz and blues. She was the first jazz artist to receive the coveted Governor’s Arts Award, a testament to her tireless efforts in preserving and promoting the rich musical traditions of her beloved Kansas City.

As Kansas City’s Ambassador of Jazz, Queen traveled the globe, sharing the magic of jazz and blues music in countries such as Costa Rica, Uruguay, Germany, Hungary, and beyond. Her performances not only entertained audiences but also served as a powerful cultural exchange, showcasing the unique American art form to the world.

Queen Bey's impact extended beyond the stage; she graced Broadway musicals like "Ain’t Misbehavin," "One Mo’ Time," and "Blues in the Night," showcasing her versatility as a performer and actress.

She generously contributed to the American Jazz Museum, including paintings she brought back from Germany as the official Kansas City Ambassador of Jazz, ensuring that her legacy as a cultural ambassador would endure for future generations to appreciate.

In 2016, Queen Bey was rightfully honored with induction into the American Jazz Walk of Fame on 18th & Vine, solidifying her place among the jazz legends she so greatly admired.

Though Queen Bey may have taken her final bow, her legacy as a pioneer, educator, and unparalleled jazz artist will continue to inspire and resonate for generations to come. In the hearts of those who knew her, Queen Bey will always be remembered as a true queen of jazz, whose luminous spirit and remarkable talent enriched the world in immeasurable ways.

queen bey on stage




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