Those with keen ears might have noticed that during Alicia Keys’ beguiling Grammy Awards performance, which she began sitting side-saddle between two pianos to play Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” she mentioned Hazel Scott.
With that brief shout out, Keys acknowledged an expert pianist who made a career out of the maneuver, an entertainer and movie star whose accomplishments made her a household name during her prime.
Trinidadian by birth, Scott had her own TV show in the early 1950s. A fierce advocate against segregation, she sued a restaurant owner in Washington state for refusing to seat her and a companion.
For a time she was married to famed New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Her outspoken politics likely prompted her presence on the so-called “black list” of musicians thought to have communist ties, an accusation she denied when voluntarily testifying during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings during the Cold War.