Diabetics In Profile – Female Performers: Some of the most talented women in music history live with diabetes. These women entertainers have not allowed Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes stop them from making memorable music for their fans. Let’s take a look at some of these standouts.
Ella Fitzgerald. Fourteen Grammy awards and 200 albums to her credit Fitzgerald is an icon in the realm of jazz music. It may seem she had everything going for her, but her parents split shortly after she was born, she was placed in an orphanage and her mother passed away when she was fifteen. Two years later at the age of seventeen Ella made her singing debut and she never seemed to stop. Her last original album was in 1989 and she lost both her sight and legs to diabetes, passing away in 1996. She is remembered more for who she was that the disease she lived with.
Mama Cass Elliot. A member of the folk group the Mamas and Papas, Elliot also had a very successful solo career, She died before reaching her 33rd birthday the result of an apparent heart attack. Elliot also lived with diabetes. She participated in eight albums over six years and had concluded two highly successful concerts in London just before she passed away.
Patti LaBelle. In 1995 Patti was diagnosed with diabetes. She has used her star status to bring hope to others with the disease. She is a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association and has also appeared in advertising for blood glucose meters. She continues an R&B singing career that started in 1962.
Peggy Lee. Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald all said that Peggy Lee was one of their favorite vocalists. She was nominated or awarded for her work on the big screen as well as her music. She passed away in 2002 from diabetes complications. She was 81. Peggy Lee started singing in 1941 and continued into the early 1990’s
Pump Girls. This is a pop music group that formed based on the common thread of diabetes. Each member suffers from Type 1 diabetes and the pump in their name presumably refers to their insulin pumps. This group is very active in support of diabetes organizations like Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Association of Diabetes Educators, American Diabetes Association, and the PADRE Foundation.
Aretha Franklin. This artist has always encouraged others to give her some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. For the most part this hasn’t been a problem for a woman who has wowed audiences for several decades. Her passion for music has led to eighteen Grammy’s, her own record label and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2009 she is set to deliver a long awaited new CD.
Della Reese. This singer/actor was discovered by another diabetic by the name of Mahlia Jackson. She has recorded dozens of albums – the most recent in 2006. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after being rushed to the hospital from the set of her hit television show, “Touched by an Angel”. Reese received several Grammy nominations for her singing and continues to use her talents as a way to help spread information about diabetes.
All of these women worked through moments of despair in order to come to terms with the fact they had dreams they still believed in and work they had yet to accomplish. Diabetes isn’t a death sentence and the lives represented above demonstrate there’s still a lot of living yet to do.