By Cynthia Gibson
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The community will say goodbye to local musical icon Barbara Morrison at a public viewing service from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 26 at the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship, 2085 S. Hobart Blvd.
Following the viewing, a celebration of Morrison’s life, including live music and testimonials from fans and friends will be held at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, 4305 Degnan Blvd., in Leimert Park.
Morrison died at UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center March 16 after a long bout with diabetes. She was 72.
She will be remembered April 10 at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, where she often performed. The Tribute to Barbara Morrison will feature Tyrone Perkins and the Fantastic 8, and other performers. Tickets are $30 and can be obtained at www.catalinajazzclub.com.
Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, outside of Detroit, Morrison first appeared on a Detroit radio station at the age of 10.
She moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s to pursue a career in music and sang in a wide array of genres from traditional jazz and blues to gospel and pop.
Over the course of six decades, Morrison performed with dozens of renowned artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Etta James, Esther Phillips, Jimmy Smith, Dr. John, Kenny Burrell, Terence Blanchard and Joe Sample. She was featured on two Grammy Award-nominated albums, and served as a producer for a third Grammy Award-nominated album, Barbara Morrison’s Blue Lady Records.
She was a recipient of a number of awards including the Living Legend Award from the Living Legend Foundation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art/LA Jazz Society’s LA Treasures Award, and Motown’s Hal Award. Morrison also served as an associate professor of jazz studies in the Global/Ethnomusicology Department at UCLA for two decades.
The Catalina Jazz Club, Millennium Biltmore Hotel Gallery Bar and many other Los Angeles venues where Morrison performed took to social media to pay their respects to the prolific singer.
Pips on La Brea, a restaurant where Morrison regularly hosted Tuesdays with Barbara and Friends, closed its doors March 22 for a day in her honor.
Pip’s owner Derrick Pipkin posted on Instagram, “In tribute and observation of the life & legacy of the late great Barbara Morrison. … We will use this time as a moment of silence and reflection. Our sincere prayers and condolences are extended to all who are affected by her loss.”
A shrine was created outside the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center in Leimert Park with flowers, handwritten notes and photos paying tribute to Morrison.
Morrison said she was inspired to open her own performance space following a 2008 concert at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Dunfermline was the birthplace of renowned industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The first Carnegie Hall in New York City was built in 1891. Carnegie built a second smaller version of Carnegie Hall in his hometown in 1937.
After performing at the tiny Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline, Morrison came up with the idea to open an arts center in South Los Angeles. Her performing arts center in 2009 in Leimert Park. Two years later, she opened the California Jazz and Blues Museum to commemorate and celebrate dozens of jazz greats through photographs, memorabilia and lectures.
Community Build President Robert Sausedo and community activist Najee Ali have started a petition drive to have Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council establish “Barbara Morrison Square” adjacent to her performing arts center at the intersection of Degnan Boulevard and 43rd Street in Leimert Park.
“To have Los Angeles elected leaders establish a Barbara Morrison Square next to the place where she entertained the world is a fitting tribute to a woman that has left an indelible mark on our community and the world,” Sausedo said.
Her family issued a statement that said in part “a treasure has been called home to rest peacefully and eternally. Our matriarch was loved and treasured by the city of L.A., and across nations overseas. But mostly, she was treasured by her family. During this time, we ask for patience and prayers as we honor her life and come together to pay tribute to her. Thank you for the love, support, and tributes.”
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-the-incredible-barbara-morrison. Funds will go towards Morrison’s funeral and estate expenses, estimated at around $30,000. Any excess funds will be used to sustain the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center and the California Jazz & Blues Museum.