R&B Legend and 'Black and Blue' Star Ruth Brown Dies

Tony Award-winning rhythm and blues singer Ruth Brown has passed away at the age of 78.

She died in Las Vegas on November 17th of complications from a heart attack and stroke following surgery.

Born as Ruth Weston in Portsmouth, VA, on Jan. 12, 1928, Brown's singing career was launched in the early '50s after she signed with Atlantic Records; she would become their top-selling black female performer of those years.  Her many hits included "Don't Deceive Me," "So Long," "Teardrops from My Eyes," and "I Know."

After some career setbacks in the '60s, she achieved a comeback as a Las Vegas headliner.  She began her stage career in 1975, when she played gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in the musical Selma, and next appeared in the Off-Broadway musical Stagger Lee.

In 1983, Brown made her Broadway debut in Amen Corner.  She won a 1989 Tony Award for her performance in Black and Blue, a hit revue featuring dozens of songs by such composers and lyricists as Duke Ellington, "Fats" Waller and Harold Arlen. 

The singer, who would make a number of other stage appearances, won a 1989 Grammy for her album "Blues and Broadway," and in 1993, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Brown also made a number of TV and film appearances.  Her movie credits included Under the Rainbow and True Identity, as well as John Waters' film Hairspray, in which she originated the role of Motormouth Maybelle.  TV credits included "Hello, Larry" and "The Jeffersons."

She is survived by sons Ronald Jackson and Earl Swanson of Las Vegas, as well as by four siblings: Delia Weston of Las Vegas, Leonard Weston of Long Island and Alvin and Benjamin Weston of Portsmouth.

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