Roland Hayes

Roland Hayes

The Legacy of an American Tenor
Christopher A. Brooks and Robert Sims
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/22/2014
ISBN: 978-0-253-01539-6
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Gold winner, 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, Performing Arts and Music

Performing in a country rife with racism and segregation, the tenor Roland Hayes was the first African American man to reach international fame as a concert performer and one of the few artists who could sell out Town Hall, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Hall, and Covent Garden. His trailblazing career carved the way for a host of African American artists, including Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson. Performing the African American spirituals he was raised on, Hayes's voice was marked with a unique sonority which easily navigated French, German, and Italian art songs. A multiculturalist both on and off the stage, he counted among his friends George Washington Carver, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ezra Pound, Pearl Buck, Dwight Eisenhower, and Langston Hughes. This engaging biography spans the history of Hayes's life and career and the legacy he left behind as a musician and a champion of African American rights. It is an authentic, panoramic portrait of a man who was as complex as the music he performed.

Author Bio

Christopher A. Brooks is Professor of Anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is author (with Shirley Verrett) of I Never Walked Alone: The Autobiography of an American Singer and several other publications.

Robert Sims is Professor of Voice in the School of Music at Northern Illinois University.


“This engaging biography spans the history of Hayes's life, trailblazing career and the legacy he left behind as a musician and champion of African American rights. It is an authentic, panoramic portrait of a man who was as complex as the music he performed.”

“Like many, I was familiar with the name Roland Hayes and his recordings, but thought of him as a historical figure belonging to a bygone era. The book, however, has dramatically expanded my knowledge of this man and his art. This incredibly well-researched book (with impeccable notes) brings to light the complexities of the periods in which Roland Hayes and his contemporaries lived and operated. Roland Hayes: The Legacy of an American Tenor will certainly appeal to the general reader, but will not disappoint specialists. It is an excellent and engaging read and I highly recommend it.”
 — Portia K. Maultsby, Laura Boulton Professor Emerita of Ethnomusicology, Indiana University

“Like many generations of celebrated African American concert artists, I am an inheritor of the legacy left by the great Roland Hayes. Yet, we hardly know his name today. With this long overdue book, the oversight is now remedied.”
 — Lawrence Brownlee, Metropolitan Opera 

“As a youth in Indianapolis, my heroes were a [trio] of African Americans . . . the great concert tenor Roland Hayes, the stunning contralto Marian Anderson, and the robust basso Paul Robeson. I placed Roland Hayes as the point man in this corps of luminaries. Although slight of physical stature he was in every other aspect of his life and career a giant. His voice was delicate, but his artistic use of it placed him at the pinnacle of accomplishment, ensuring his place in the international annals of musical attainment. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Drs. Christopher Brooks and Robert Sims for bringing Roland Hayes to the world in this comprehensive appraisal of, and tribute to, his momentous life and ineradicable legacy.”
 — George Shirley, From the Foreword

“Until the arrival of the 1990 PBS documentary, Roland Hayes's path breaking career as a great musical artist had fallen into near obscurity. The Musical Legacy of Roland Hayes exposed that generation to this American icon who opened doors for legends like Marian Anderson and George Shirley. This book, Roland Hayes: The Legacy of an American Tenor presents a far more comprehensive and revealing portrait of his musical genius. Hayes's rise to celebrity and the challenges he faced are all given full attention in this very balanced and sensitively handled biography.”
 — Paul Spencer Adkins, tenor, featured artist, co-producer, and creative consultant, The Musical Legacy of Roland Hayes PBS docume

“An impressive work of scholarship, shedding light on a significant figure in American music and the time in which he lived.”
 — Epoch Times

“Largely forgotten today outside specialist circles, the African-American tenor Roland Hayes (1887–1976) was a much admired and internationally celebrated artist during his lifetime. As the authors of this substantial and well-documented new biography suggest, a reluctance to broadcast and a relatively limited recording career have prevented wider circulation of his fame in our own day. . . The authors detail his long career meticulously, as well as his complicated private life.”
 — BBC Music Magazine

“Well researched, with several primary sources and newspapers cited, the volume includes 48 illustrations of Hayes and other musicians. . . . Highly recommended.”
 — Choice

“Offers a gripping, sensitive, and balanced story of this historical icon and musician.”
 — The Atlanta Voice

“With moving contributions from tenor George Shirley and bass Simon Estes, this text captures the essence of [Hayes's] career thoughtfully compiled with the accuracy of historian Christopher Brooks and the music depth of baritone Robert Sims. This book is a wonderful journey through Hayes' performances, racial plight and acceptance. ”

“What we have here is a thorough and well-documented account of the life of a most interesting artist, one who was both a racial pioneer and a fine interpreter of both European art music and African-American spirituals.”
 — ARSC Journal

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Table of Contents

Introduction: "I’ll Make Me a Man"
1. A New Jerusalem (1887-1911)
2. Roland’s World in Boston (1911-1920)
3. Roland Rules Britannia (1920-1921)
4. "Le Rage de Paris" (1921-1922)
5. You’re Tired, Chile (1923)
6. The Hayes Conquest (1923-1924)
7. Roland and the Countess (1924-1926)
8. The Conquest Slows (1926-1930)
9. Hard Trials, Great Tribulations (1930-1935)
10. Return to Europe (1936-1942)
11. Rome, Georgia--1942
12. "You can tell the World about This!" (1942-1950)
13. Struggles in Remaining Relevant (1950-1959)
14. I Wanna Go Home (1960-1977)
Epilogue: The Hayes Legacy (1977- )
Roland Hayes: Repertoire