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William Warfield: 1920-2002
William Warfield

Born: January 22, 1920 in West Helena, Arkansas
Died: August 25, 2002 in Chicago, Illinois

Copyright © 2002 


William Warfield was was best known for his roles in musical theatre and opera, notably his portrayal of Joe the Dock Hand in the 1951 movie version of Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat, and in the male title roll in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, which he first sang in New York City in 1952. That production toured in Europe, with Warfield, Leontyne Price and Cab Calloway in starring roles.

His recordings included an accalimed version of Aaron Copland's Old American Songs, conducted by the composer. He won a Grammy award in 1984 for his narration in Copland's A Lincoln Portrait.

He joined the Faculty of Music at the University of Illinois in 1974, and later became professor of music at Northwestern University in 1994.

He made a recording of Porgy and Bess with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band in 1984, and collaborated on a number of subsequent jazz-related projects with Cullum, whose personal remembrance of Warfield can be found at

JJA members are invited to submit a full obituary or appreciation.

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With 1 reader comment, posted August 18, 2007