"Yes, my brother was gay. Yes, he died of AIDS. Yes, I love him."
January 23, 2017 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Nell Carter, the Broadway and 80s sitcom superstar who died too young in 2003 after a life of many highs and lows, was born today in 1948 . In 1992, ABC, in partnership with Elizabeth Taylor, presented "New Light: A Call to Action in the War Against AIDS" (1992 New York Times article) and Ms. Carter sang a perhaps odd choice: Steve Winwood's "Back in the High Life Again", which she dedicated, against her family's wishes, to her gay brother Dr. Bernard Taylor, who had died of the illness in 1989. (poster's note: if this interests you in the least, please forgive the poor quality and make it to the end around 3:48 because it is worth it) posted by MCMikeNamara (18 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
(it's an outrage that this is the first time the NellCarter tag has been used)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:29 PM on January 23, 2017 [13 favorites]

I could swear that I remember there being a Nell Carter obit post way back when, but now I can't find it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:44 PM on January 23, 2017

wow, I didn't know I needed this post. Thank you!!
posted by zutalors! at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Amazing find, MCMikeNamara. What a heart on that woman....
posted by mochapickle at 9:29 PM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

like, I seriously listened to it like five times.
posted by zutalors! at 9:29 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

That was so so great. Thanks!
posted by jameaterblues at 9:41 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nell Carter goodness! Her rendition of mean to me is lovely and her amazing Grace just makes me cry.

Thank you for the reminder.-she seemed a wonderful woman.
posted by anitanita at 10:40 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I loved Nell Carter as child. What a woman.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:06 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Unbelievably powerful to see this. I remember these benefits and the quilt and the number of people who had to defy their families like Ms. Carter had to in order to get the word out about how widespread this disease was at the time, just to try to save the lives of those who hadn't yet succumbed, and for the rest of us who may yet.
posted by xingcat at 6:25 AM on January 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

She lit up white boys.
posted by sonascope at 6:27 AM on January 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

After listening to some of these videos, I feel like we didn't appreciate Nell Carter anything like as much as we should have when we were fortunate enough to have her among us.
posted by orange swan at 7:21 AM on January 24, 2017 [6 favorites]

her amazing Grace just makes me cry .

Thank you for sharing this because it allowed me to discover that episode of "Gimme a Break" online, which is the second thing I think about when I think about that show (the first being that she sucked up the goldfish in the vacuum cleaner)

Nell sings "Amazing Grace" after her father's funeral; she'd just come home to Alabama after he had a heart attack after 16 years of estrangement.

In that episode, since the Chief is out of town, Samantha accompanies Nell on her trip, and when they get there, Samantha is puzzled by the family's portrait of Jesus, which is black. Nell tells her that everybody has their own picture of Jesus, whites want them white, blacks want them white and Kermit the Frog wants them green. I am not ashamed to admit that this BLEW MY LITTLE WHITE MIND when I saw this as a kid, and I honestly think of it as a formative experience.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:07 AM on January 24, 2017 [9 favorites]

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:44 AM on January 24, 2017

My God that Amazing Grace...such power and faith and at the same time conflict in that rendition. Thank you.
posted by Malingering Hector at 10:18 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I remember those days and the stigma of a AIDS family dying. Such great moxie and performance from her.

I learned from a bit of research about Nell that many years after this performance she had a same sex relationship that she was in until the day she died along with 2 adopted children with her partner.
posted by ShakeyJake at 1:43 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love Stevie Winwood, so I was skeptical when I clicked that link. After that performance, Winwood's version seems more than a little bland—as if he missed the whole point of the lyrics.

Also appreciate the link to White Boys. It's time to watch Hair again.

Thank you for posting this—repeating the sentiment that I didn't know I needed this.
posted by she's not there at 10:39 PM on January 24, 2017 [3 favorites]

And her and Sammy Davis is just bubbles and champaign .

What always impressed me was the inflection and power - should could have just blown everyone away with the strength of her voice a la Mariah Carey, but her interpretations made every song she sang her own, like Billie H. or Nina S.
posted by anitanita at 11:45 PM on January 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

Love that you made this post. I adored her. I saw Ain't Misbehavin' when I was really young. I don't know if I saw her in the cast, but I definitely made my parents purchase me the album, which I then listened to relentlessly. I learned all the words to every song and sang it in front of my mirror. So when my friends were, like, pretending to be Cher, I was pretending to be a black woman from Harlem.

I saw Charlayne Woodard in a restaurant once and had to approach her table to tell her how much the show meant to me. Never got to see Nell Carter, though I sure watched the heck out of her TV shows. I also remember Woodard in an interview talking about how tempers could flare among the cast from time to time, and once she was doing her big ballad (Keepin' Out of Mischief Now) and she glanced over to see Nell aggressively eating fried chicken right there in the wings, as close as possible to the edge where the audience would have been able to see, just kind of staring Woodard down. That always struck me as hilarious.

Anyway, I always loved her but didn't know at all about her participating in this sort of early anti-AIDS work. Just makes me love her more. And that version of that Stevie Winwood song is genius.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:59 AM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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