I Am Singing One of the things my mom used to do - I don't know why she chose me, but she chose me out of her six children to take to the African-American church that was in the town that we lived in Springfield, Missouri. And we would go to the church, and we would sit in the back row, and we would listen to all of the spirituals in the hymns.
I came from being a singer going into jazz. And that's one of the things that polio did for me is it took away my ability to sing with a range because it paralyzed my vocal chords, so that was when I started playing. But I hear the music as if I were singing even when I am playing.
I listened to classical music. I listened to jazz. I listened to everything. And I started becoming interested in the sounds of jazz. And I went to a concert of Jazz at the Philharmonic when we lived in Omaha, Nebraska, and I saw Charlie Parker play and Billie Holiday sing and Lester Young play, and that did it. I said, 'That's what I want to do.'
I don't sing now, because I had polio when I was 15, bulbar polio. This was when the epidemic was happening. And I was lucky that it didn't affect my lungs or my legs. It went to my face and kind of paralyzed my vocal chords, and I wasn't able to sing. And they said I was very lucky that I would get over it, which I did.
I have a very clear picture of what I want to do and what I feel is important as far as my contribution or my appreciation and respect for this life that we're living, and to try to make it better. I can't feel that I'm making it better playing commercial music, and I never could, and I never will.