Tribute to Ruth Brown

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Ruth Brown died Friday at a hospital in Las Vegas of complications from a stroke and heart attack. She was 78. Brown had a voice that could shake timbers, and a will to match. Bonnie Raitt said of Brown that she had a "combination of vulnerability and resilience and fighting spirit."


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. RUTH BROWN (Singer): (Singing) Every time it rains, I think of you...

SIMON: Ruth Brown died yesterday at a hospital in Las Vegas of a heart attack. She was 78. She had a voice that could shake timbers, and a will to match. In the 1950s, she recorded for a little start-up label called Atlantic Records, Mama, He Treats Your Daughters Mean, and Five, Ten, Fifteen Hours. Atlantic became known as the House that Ruth Built.

Ruth Brown appeared as DJ Motormouth Maybelle in the John Waters film Hairspray, won a Tony Award, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She fought for old R and B artists to collect long-overdue royalties, and she won many of those battles. Bonnie Raitt described Ruth Brown today as a combination of vulnerability and resilience and fighting spirit. It was not arrogance, but she was just really not going to lay down and roll over for anyone.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. BROWN: (Singing) Remember the night you told me how I would always be, I wouldn't be blue and lonely, well, if you come back to me. Every single cloud would disappear...

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