Introduction and Early Life:
Johnny Hartman is one of the most iconic jazz singers of the 1950s and ’60s, who became known for his successful jazz collaborations – including the 1965 masterwork John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – and smooth, distinctive ballads with a “velvety” baritone voice.
Born in Houma, Louisiana on July 3, 1923, he learned singing and piano at a very early age. After attending DuSable High School, he acquired a scholarship to Chicago Musical College. Hartman performed as a private in Special Services in the U.S. Army during World War II, but his professional debut came later in the mid-40s. He won a singing contest and had the opportunity to perform with Earl Hines. Hartman joined the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band when Hines’ band dissolved in 1947.
Career and Musical Achievements:
The first notable LP by Johnny Hartman, Songs From the Heart, was released in 1956 by Bethlehem Records, boasting a quartet led by the legendary bebop jazz trumpeter Howard McGhee. His second album, All of Me, also included the Frank Hunter String Orchestra. Hartman’s 1965 duet album, John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, became an instant jazz masterpiece and sold very well. Comprising of a carefully picked set of ballad standards, particularly his soulfully beautiful renditions of “Lush Life” and “My One and Only Love”. He released two more albums for Impulse! Records; namely I Just Dropped By to Say Hello (1963) and The Voice That Is (1964).
Although Hartman recorded various jazz and pop albums for a number of labels during the late ’60s and early ’70s, his musical input was minimal during the 1970s. He made a strong comeback with Once In Every Life in 1980 and even received a Grammy nomination for his efforts.
Johnny Hartman married Theodora “Tedi” Boyd, a dancer and private secretary, on January 25, 1958. His 1985 final recording This One’s for Tedi was a tribute to his wife.
Hartman died on September 15, 1983. He was 60 years old.