Arts, Culture & Media

Maya Angelou was a poet and activist, but she got her start as a Calypso star

A poet, writer, actor and activist, Maya Angelou died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

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Her 1969 award winning autobiography, "I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings" was her calling card for readers around the globe. But 25 years before she wrote that, Maya Angelou was a Calypso singer.

In 1957 she released the album Miss Calpyso. She performed in clubs in the San Francisco area under her birth name, Marguerite Johnson, and sometimes under the name Rita.

But her manager and others persuaded her to change her name to Maya Angelou. And the rest, as they say, is history.

She rode that calypso wave literally to the big screen; appearing first in the film "Calypso Heat Wave."

However, the Calypso thing was just a flirtation. 

As the story goes, when Maya Angelou met Billie Holiday in 1958, the jazz singer told her, "You're going to be famous but it won't be for singing."

Holiday was right.

Still, there is something in the voice of Miss Calypso. You be the judge.

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