Our ‘beyond the music’ series continues exploring the diabetes hardships experienced by beloved musicians who have passed away to help you ‘keep your house a home’ by learning how diabetes health-related complications from occur.
In many instances their obituaries make little mention of their diabetes diagnosis and/or diabetes health-related complications which results in the general public’s continued ignorance about the subject.
LaVern Baker, whose hits such as “Tweedle-Dee” and “Jim Dandy” put her at the top of the rhythm and blues charts in the 1950s and earned her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
LaVern Baker figured that she was living with type 2 diabetes for about five or six years before she was diagnosed. She received the news soon after completing an triumphant run in “Black and Blue” that marked her return to the United States after two decades living in the Philippines, where she performed on a military base.
She suffered a stroke in the early 1990’s, and then was forced to withdraw from the spotlight in 1994 when her right leg was removed. Initially her doctors thought that only part of her left foot would have to be removed, but a few days after that operation, it became necessary to amputate the entire leg. Ultimately, both of her legs had to be amputated.
“I lost my legs,” Baker, 65, announces. “But I didn’t lose my mind. I’m tired of just sittin’. I want to do something. God gave me a talent and I can still use it. I can still go out and sing.”
And that’s precisely what she did. LaVern Baker returned to performing in 1996 with an undiminished voice and an indomitable spirit. Her repertory include 12 to 15 songs spanning her career around the world. Her shows included the ’50s–songs like “Tweedle Dee,” “Jim Dandy” and “I Cried a Tear”–to numbers from the 1990 Broadway revue “Black and Blue” and from her most recent album, 1992’s “Woke Up This Mornin’ “–a collection of pop and blues standards.
“We’re planning for LaVern to have a motorized wheelchair,” her manager said. “So she’ll make her entrance by herself, rather than being pushed on. You know, I can’t think of anybody in the history of show business who has performed with two legs amputated. Some people think audiences will be squeamish, but aside from her spirit, LaVern’s got great showmanship. And she’s kept her sense of humor, even though her life has been such a roller coaster.”
LaVern Baker, whose original name was Delores Williams, was born in Chicago; an aunt was the blues singer Memphis Minnie. Ms. Baker sang gospel in church, and in the mid-1940’s she worked as a blues singer, calling herself Little Miss Sharecropper and Bea Baker.
She became the second woman signed to Atlantic Records–right after Ruth Brown, who coincidentally originated the role in “Black and Blue”. In 1955, Baker scored her first R&B hit for Atlantic, “Tweedle Dee”–though, in a move typical of that period, it was a re-recorded version by white artist Georgia Gibbs that took it to the pop charts.
More than a dozen R&B hits followed, and–eventually–even some crossover success. Her crowning achievement came in 1958 with the ballad “I Cried a Tear,” a No. 6 pop hit.
But as new divas like Gladys Knight and Atlantic’s own Aretha Franklin started to emerge, Baker’s star was falling. She left Atlantic in 1964. By the end of that decade, her second marriage (to comic Slappy White) had also fallen on troubled times.
Baker was inducted into the rock hall of fame in 1991, telling the audience, “Regardless of how old you are when you get this, it’s still good, baby.”
Why Do People Suffer Double Amputations?
In people with diabetes, a trifecta of trouble can set the stage for amputations: Numbness in the feet due to diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) can make people less aware of injuries and foot ulcers. These ulcers may fail to heal, which can in turn lead to serious infections.
Over half of limb amputations (about 67 percent) in the United States are attributable to diabetes and related complications. The majority of limb amputations are performed on the lower extremities.
Nerve damage or diabetic neuropathy causes decreased feeling, and a person with diabetes cannot feel it when they get a tack in their foot, or injure their limb
Skin changes from diabetes causes skin to break down, and this combined with diabetic nerve damage and poor circulation leads to non-healing ulcers
Join us for the inaugural Fandross Festival presented by the Vandross Family Estate and Divabetic celebrating the musical legacy of Luther Vandross and raising awareness for the prevention of diabetes health-related complications such as stroke. Enjoy an interactive Panel Discussion featuring Luther Vandross’s former musical director, Nat Adderley Jr., singer-songwriter Fonzi Thornton, vocalists Alfa Anderson, Robin Clark, and Tawatha Agee, Luther Vandross historian Leon Petrossian and more. Tickets are on sale now (50% Off). Get your ticket now by clicking the link below for the inaugural Fandross Festival on Saturday, May 12, 2018, 6:30 -8:30 PM at SVA Theater at 333 West 23rd Street, NY, NY 10011. Please join us! BUY TICKETS