Book cover for 'Open the Door'
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Michigan and the Great Lakes

Open the Door

The Life and Music of Betty Carter
William R. Bauer
Presents the lifelong influence of Betty Carter's career and her music on the music world


Betty Carter's lifelong influence on the music world is unparalleled. Her contributions to music as a jazz singer, composer, arranger, and teacher have fostered a generation of musicians and fans.

This book looks at Betty Carter's contribution to the music world and delves behind the scenes to show Carter's growth as a businesswoman who took charge of her career.

Drawing upon revealing interviews with Carter, the author shows how ever-changing shifts in the music industry affected the singer's life and influenced her music. Bauer shows through his analysis of her musical examples how Carter absorbed various musical influences, from Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday to Miles Davis, and made them her own. From her apprenticeship with Gladys Hampton, Carter grew to become a shrewd dealer who learned to do her own contracting, A&R, and marketing and distribution. By chronicling one of jazz's great singers and composers, the book sheds light on how early jazz musicians got their work to the public and how this process has changed during the past fifty years.

William R. Bauer is Assistant Professor of Music at The College of Staten Island/CUNY. He has written several articles about jazz vocal performance and scat singing, as well as various aspects of music education. His compositions have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe and include works for the theater and dance.

Praise / Awards

  • "William Bauer's new book sets a new standard for scholarly reportage. He tells it like it was and still is. Having worked with Betty Carter for 17 years, conducting her concerts with symphony orchestras, I always hoped that musicians and listeners of the future would be able to have some idea of who she was as a person, and what she sacrificed to achieve what she did. This book is much more than a biography, it holds a mirror up to America, and through Betty's eyes and ears, we see and hear the part of our history that has yet to be dealt with. This new biography is a stunning achievement."
    --David Amram
  • "Betty Carter was the only postbop singer who could be mentioned in the same breath with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan. Focusing on her music, William Bauer also illuminates her fierce independence as a woman. Passionate but balanced, Open the Door is a splendid contribution to jazz literature."
    --Francis Davis, author of Like Young and The History of the Blues
  • "Until now, singers have rarely been treated as musicians. Through Bauer's painstaking research, for the first time, one is led inside the world of a singer, to see how a career is built up from scratch, to understand how songs are shaped and reshaped, and, ultimately, to feel for this brilliant, feisty woman who was Betty Carter."
    --Lewis Porter, Rutgers University
  • "A personal book (written with love) that explores Carter as a woman who went up against racial and sexual bigotry among many barriers to sucess[sic]. . . . Open the Door is probably the most scholarly and informative biography of a jazz singer published so far."
    --Craig Jolley, All About Jazz
  • "Bauer . . . writes of Carter with a balance of artistic reverence and scholarly objectivity. . . . 'To those who treasure her characteristic approach to the jazz vocal,' Bauer writes, 'hearing the sound of Betty Carter's voice will provide an invitation to come through the door she held open to that miraculous world where sounds become music, where singing becomes artistry, where life and jazz meet.' Bauer's chronicle is an invitation to enter the wonders of Carter's musical universe. . . . For readers interested in a note-by-note account of how Carter did what she did, Bauer's work is of such a detailed nature that one can use it to follow along with the recordings (which he recommends)."
    --Dorothy Clark, Boston Globe, October 17, 2002
  • "[Bauer] combines perceptive musical scholarship with a true fan's love of his subject in Open the Door: The Life and Music of Betty Carter. . . . [It] does justice to one of our great American artists."
    --Larry Nai, Cadence, June 2002
  • "An excellent book, suitable for the beginning student or casual fan of vocal jazz and jazz scholars alike."
    --T. E. Buehrer, Kenyon College, Choice, October 2002
  • "[Bauer] draws on exhaustive scholarly research in telling Carter's tale, providing a definitive documentation of one of the last great singers to emerge from the big band era."
    --John Janowiak, Down Beat, February 1, 2003
  • "This, then, is a story of keeping on keeping on, and Bauer, at his best, shows Carter as the behind-the-scenes warrior she sometimes had to be. The book's appendix goes into detail about Carter's art as a vocalist and includes phonetic transcriptions of several of her best-known songs, including "I Could Write a Book," "Open the Door" and "The Good Life."
    --Dave Ferman, Fort Worth Star Telegram, June 2, 2002
  • ". . . a fine example of jazz scholarship. . . . It is the first and most thorough account of Betty Carter's life and 50 year career to date. . . . Open the Door: The Life and Music of Betty Carter, is a serious body of work and a major contribution to jazz scholarship and literature."
    --Jazz Improv
  • ". . . I suspect that [this book] is one that will benefit from more than one reading; more to the point, perhaps, the reader might well benefit from this repeated exposure to the life of the woman who was, by her own lights, the last of the great jazz singers."
    --Bruce Crowther, Jazz Journal International, November 2002
  • ". . . offers yet another passageway into a musical life that had powerful implications for everyone it touched."
    --Jazziz, Volume 19: No. 6 (June 2002)
  • ". . . a landmark work for anyone who wants to learn about Carter in particular and jazz in general."
    --Ellen Cantarow, Women's Review of Books, Volume XIX: No. 8 (May 2002)

Look Inside

Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted April 2005.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 440pp.
  • 16 photographs, 20 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06791-6

Add to Cart
  • $18.95 U.S.