Posted by: nancycurteman | January 29, 2021

 

 

The Apollo Theater: A Harlem Icon

The neo-classical Apollo Theater is a Harlem icon. Through many ups and downs this theater has survived and even thrived. It opened in 1914, closed in 1976, reopened in 1978, closed in 1979, and reopened in 1981. In 1983, it achieved state and city landmark status as Harlem’s oldest functioning theater.

The Apollo started as a burlesque theater then changed it format to variety. Since its opening, it has played a major role in the emergence of American music originals—jazz, swing, R&B, gospel and soul.

The Apollo introduced some of America’s most unforgettable musicians to the world. The list of stars who started their careers on the Apollo stage seems endless: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis, Jr, James Brown, Pearl Bailey, Gladys Knight, D’Angelo, The temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and jazz great Miles Davis.

Many of these celebrities competed in one of the famous Apollo Amateur Nights. Jimi Hendrix was one of the winners.

Others who had acquired fame returned to perform on the Apollo stage including Smokey Robbins, Dinah Washington and the great Aretha Franklin

The theater was even a venue for dramatic plays such as “The Detective Story” starring Sidney Poitier. It hosted the long-running transvestite hit “25 Men and 1 Girl.”

The Apollo is still going strong. Prince performed there as did Tony Bennett. Barak Obama hosted a campaign fundraiser there in 2007.

The Apollo remains a Harlem icon to this day.

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