Lacuna Coil's co-vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro share their favorite…
- Posted on Sep 28th 2010 11:05AM by Emily Tan
While not widely known unlike his jazz contemporaries, Collette played with Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington from the time he was a teen in the 1930s. He continued performing up until 1998 when his career was cut short after he suffered a stroke.
Born William Marcel Collette in Los Angeles on Aug. 6, 1921, Collette grew up with music all around him as his father was a pianist and his mother sang. He formed his first group at the age of 12 and convinced his young bandmate Charles Mingus to trade in his cello for a bass.
After serving in World War II, Collette's talent became well-known in the Los Angeles swing and be-bop scenes. In 1949, he became the only African-American chosen to be in the band for Groucho Marx's 'You Bet Your Life' show. He later joined pianist Benny Carter and arranger Marl Young in the fight to stop segregation in the American Federation of Musicians. Collette finally saw the fruits of his labor on April 1, 1953, when black and white Los Angeles union locals merged.
"I knew that was something that had to be done," Collette told the L.A. Times in 2000. "I had been in the service, where our band was integrated. My high school had been fully integrated. I really didn't know anything about racism, but I knew it wasn't right. Musicians should be judged on how they play, not the color of their skin."
Collette is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.