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Lil Green (December 22, 1919 (some sources give 1901 or 1910)[nb 1] – April 14, 1954)[2] was an American blues singer and songwriter. She was among the leading female rhythm and blues singers of the 1940s, with a sensual soprano voice, she possessed with an ability to bring power to ordinary material and compose superior songs of her own, with gospel singer R.H. Harris, lauding her beautiful voice, and her interpretation of religious songs[6]

Lil Green
Lil Green singer.jpg
Background information
Birth nameLillian Green or
Lillie May Johnson
Born(1919-12-22)December 22, 1919[dubious ]
Mississippi, United States
Died(1954-04-14)April 14, 1954
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Atlantic (1951–54)
Associated actsBig Bill Broonzy


Life and careerEdit

Originally named Lillian Green or Lillie May Johnson,[4] she was born in Mississippi. After the early deaths of her parents, she began performing in her teens and, having (like many African-American singers) honed her craft in the church performing gospel, she sang in Mississippi jukes, before heading to Chicago, Illinois, in 1929, where she would make all of her recordings.[7]

Green was noted for superb timing and a distinctively sinuous voice. She was reportedly 18 when she recorded her first session for the 35-cent Bluebird subsidiary of RCA. In the 1930s she and Big Bill Broonzy had a nightclub act together.[2] Her two biggest hits were her own composition "Romance in the Dark" (1940),[8] which was later covered by many artists, such as Dinah Washington and Nina Simone (in 1967) (Billie Holiday recorded a different song with the same title), and Green's 1941 version of Kansas Joe McCoy's minor-key blues- and jazz-influenced song "Why Don't You Do Right?",[8] which was covered by Peggy Lee in 1942 and many others since.[7] As well as performing in Chicago nightclubs, Green toured with Tiny Bradshaw and other bands but never broke away from the black theatre circuit.[9]

By 1949, Green had changed direction with the foresight to become a jazz vocalist, and tried to emulate the Jazz style of Billie Holiday. She signed with Atlantic Records in 1951, but she was already in poor health.[9] She died of pneumonia in Chicago in 1954 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Gary, Indiana.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Most sources give 1919 as her year of birth.[1][2][3] However, Bob Eagle and Eric S. LeBlanc gave the date as 1901, on the basis of information in the 1910 census, and also referred to a Social Security claim, apparently for her, which stated that she was born on December 22, 1910, in Port Gibson, Mississippi.[4][5]


  1. ^ Herzhaft, Gérard (1992). Encyclopedia of the Blues. University of Arkansas Press. p. 128.
  2. ^ a b c Pearson, Barry Lee. "Lillian 'Lil' Green: Biography". Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  3. ^ "LIL GREEN". 14 April 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 216. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  5. ^ Riesman, Bob (15 May 2011). "I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy". University of Chicago Press. p. 55. Retrieved 21 April 2019 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Shadwick, Keith (2001). "Lil Green". Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Quintet Publishing. p. 461. ISBN 1-86155-385-4.
  7. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. pp. 114–115. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  8. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 13. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  9. ^ a b "Lil Green Biography". Retrieved 2015-08-30.

External linksEdit