Pittsfield woman belts out the blues

January 18, 2018 03:32 PM

When Gina Coleman sings, you feel it down to your toes. She says that's what the blues does. It makes you feel it.

Raised by her grandmother in the South Bronx, Coleman was initially exposed to classical music.

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"She was touted as being the next Marion Anderson," noted Coleman.

However, a dare at an open mic night would get her on stage to sing something altogether different.

"I signed up, went onstage and I sang ‘Mercedes Benz' by Janis Joplin – acapella," recalled Coleman.

WEB EXTRA: Performance from Gina Coleman

A conversation with actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson while doing a play at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, would turn her attention to blues.

"He gave me this collection. It's called "Men Are Like Streetcars." I listened to it. It's all females from like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, up to Tracy Chapman," she explained. "It transformed me. It's not necessarily pretty singing, it's very emotive – and it just speaks to me."

The Pittsfield woman would go on to form several bands, performing throughout Massachusetts and the Capital Region.

Last year, they were given the chance of a lifetime – winning a bid that would send them to Memphis for the "International Blues Challenge."

"Blues societies from across the world get to present a band, a solo act and a youth act," pointed out Coleman.

Watch a video of the performance in Tennessee here.


WNYT Staff

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