Stage Door News

Toronto: Salome Bey, Canada’s First Lady of the Blues, has died

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Salome Bey, the singer-songwriter, composer, and actor who was known as Canada’s First Lady of the Blues, died August 8 at the age of 86. 

Born October 10, 1933, in Newark, New Jersey, the Obie-winning artist performed with brother Andy Bey and sister Geraldine Bey (de Haas) as Andy & the Bey Sisters across the U.S., Europe, and Canada before relocating to Toronto in 1964. 

Ms. Bey made her Broadway debut in October 1972 in the short-lived musical Dude, from Hair creators Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot. That same year, she received an Obie Award for her work in Love Me, Love My Children (which had previously run in Canada under the title Justine). In 1976, she appeared in Alex Bradford, Micki Grant, and Vinnette Carroll's Tony-nominated Your Arms Too Short to Box with God; her performance was preserved on the musical's Grammy-nominated cast album.

Ms. Bey subsequently created a cabaret show celebrating the history of Black music, Indigo, which garnered her two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Outstanding Performance in a Revue or Musical and Outstanding Production of a Cabaret or Revue. Indigo was later filmed and aired on Superchannel and CBC. Ms. Bey also recorded two albums with jazz pianist Horace Silver, and released live albums of her performances with the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir and at the Montreux Jazz Festival. 

Ms. Bey's musical theatre work Rainboworld provided a foundation for young artists to develop their skills and explore issues of the world through music, dance, and theatre. This work nurtured a long, extensive list of Black Canadian artists such as Deborah Cox, Divine Brown, Orin Isaacs, Simone Denny, and Shantall Young. 

In 1992, Ms. Bey received the Toronto Arts Award for her contributions to the performing arts, and in 1996 she received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for lifetime achievement from the Black Theatre Workshop of Montreal. Ms. Bey was made an honorary member of the Order of Canada in 2005.

Salome Bey is survived by her three children, singer SATE, singer-performance artist tUkU, and son Marcus Matthews. Donations can be made to The Freedom School Toronto.

By Andrew Gans for

Photo: Salome Bey. © 1985 Toronto Star.