Melba Joyce To Appear In The 2014 Veterans Day Parade
Melba Joyce To Appear In The 2014 Veterans Day Parade Tuesday, November 11, 2014. 5th Ave. NYC Noon to 3 pm Vietnam Float. "The Black Angel" — Melba Joyce in Viet Nam! For over 50 years Melba Joyce has performed, mostly as a jazz singer. In 2011 and 2012, she was nominated by the Downbeat Reader's Poll as the Best Female Jazz Vocalist. This legend has been accompanied by and appeared with the best and finest names in jazz including, Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, and the world famous Count Basie Orchestra with whom she was recently featured with at the historical Blue Note as a special guest.
The Department of Defense requested that Melba Joyce, as she was known in 1969 when she volunteered with the USO, make two tours. Melba will be featured in the 2014 Veterans Day Parade on a float where she will sing an original song, "Song for my Brothers". This parade commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Viet Nam War.
Black soldiers in the 'Nam, as they called it, were on the front lines and in the maelstrom of violence in this Southeast Asia nation from the first volleys of gunfire between U.S. and Vietnamese forces in 1960 to the cease
fire in 1973. Caught in the throes of an un-winnable war and often bitterly divided from their white counterparts, black soldiers sought solace and comfort wherever they could find it. It was the music, the sound of Motown, Philadelphia and the Blue Note that kept many of them from falling even
deeper into the pits of depression, to say nothing of the pits filled with
It was common to hear the music of black America emanating from a bivouac zone or in an R&R area. More than one soldier commented on the need to have those familiar tunes from their favorite artist with them as they lived with death and destruction. The cassette tapes were played so much that fidelity faded, and the best gift package from home had at least the latest hits among the items. Even better than tapes or shellac was to hear the real thing, whenever a USO troupe dared travel to that hell-hole.
When few entertainers would venture to this war torn country to lift the sprits and cheer the black troupes, Melba Joyce was equal to the task. The troops were so happy to see her and to hear the lovely voice, many of them wept with joy. For her courageous dedication and splendid vocals, Melba was dubbed "The Black Angel" by one of her most appreciative and loyal followers.
To recall these moments now generations ago, Melba has assembled photos and recorded interviews of some of the soldiers who experienced her performances, as well as other memorabilia, all of which could be contained in a book and has been recorded online as a diary, which may be found on the Library of Congress web.
The few veterans who have cooperated in the project will combine their
memories with Melba's to capture a special, and indeed rare, occurrence of
what was and what has become a rare portrait of American history. The
book will stress the unity that was such a vital aspect of Melba's two tours
in Vietnam, unifying events all the more precious and spectacular given the
widespread racial turmoil and political dissension that gripped America
then, and even now.
One of the book's most poignant episodes occurs when Melba first arrives
in Viet Nam and the glorious welcome she receivers from the troops who
embrace her with tears in their eyes. Melba's tours took her from one end of Viet Nam to the other, from the Delta to the Mekong valley to the DMZ, and whether with George Jessel or fronting her own band, she brought them a piece of hometown, a vestige of their sisters and mothers, their loved ones who waited for them no matter where they were, from California to Texas, Melba says.
While such a book captures a provocative and heartfelt momentum of
America's history, it also documents a time when there were elements of
unity, despite the anger and bitterness that seemed to suffocate any
possibility of hope and brotherhood. "The Black Angel" for thousands of
black soldiers was a lifeline, a reason to hold on a little longer, to do more to survive a death that appeared almost inevitable. Melba's songs sustained them during those harrowing moments of fear; she brought them
something they could grab onto, a voice that made it a bit easier to endure
an eleven-month tour into the jungle battlefields.
There are so many stories yet untold about the turbulent Viet Nam war
years, and "The Black Angel" provides a glimpse of loving relationship
between soldiers isolated in war zones far from home and one of their
sisters of mercy, willing to risk all to bring them a moment of joy and the
promise of a less violent tomorrow.
"The Black Angel" is Melba Joyce's memoir and just a portion of her
exciting, adventurous career in the world of entertainment.
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