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Jazz singer dies after onstage stroke

The Baltimore Sun

Vocalist Ruby Glover, a vibrant link to Baltimore's rich jazz heritage, died Saturday, a day after collapsing onstage during a performance at the Creative Alliance in East Baltimore.

On Friday night, Ms. Glover was thrilled to see a full house gathered for a House of Ruth benefit where she was among the performers. With her silver cropped hair, Ms. Glover, 77, appeared as radiant and polished as ever on stage, recalled friend Megan Hamilton.

Emcee Stan Stovall from WBAL-TV introduced Ms. Glover, who performed with the Tom Reyes Trio. But after two jazz standards, Ms. Glover couldn't make it through a third. She seemed "a bit confused" and turned her back to the audience, Ms. Hamilton said.

Ms. Glover then collapsed and two fans caught her. Surrounded by family and friends who prayed and sang "This Little Light of Mine," Ms. Glover died the next afternoon at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center of a stroke.

"We're so blessed," Ms. Glover's youngest son, Aaron Perkins, said yesterday. "She was a wonderful mother who had a wonderful career and a wonderful spirit."

A mentor to generations of aspiring vocalists, Ms. Glover helped stage the annual Billie Holiday competition for many years. She also taught a jazz appreciation course at Sojourner-Douglass College and led tours along Pennsylvania Avenue, the storied stretch of clubs and bars where she sang in the company of Ms. Holiday, Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Mr. Perkins spoke yesterday of his mother's passion for "African-American history, for the history of Baltimore, and especially Pennsylvania Avenue and Billie Holiday."

At age 6, Ms. Glover began singing at funerals for family members. In a 2002 interview with The Sun, she recalled, "One day I got bold enough to ask my mom. I said, 'How come when I'm singing the ladies and the men in the front are just bowing their heads or are tearful. But the person who's sleeping in the back, they don't do anything.'"

Ms. Glover said she learned to sing jazz from her vocalist mother and the musicians who filled her house after late-night gigs. She became a mainstay of Pennsylvania Avenue in the 1940s and 1950s, when the 24-block street pulsed with jazz. "It was just swinging all the time, all the time," Ms. Glover told a Sun reporter in 2002. "The glamour. The gorgeous feeling. The energy!"

Even as she championed music and her native city, Ms. Glover had a day job as an administrator for Johns Hopkins Hospital for 30 years. She volunteered at the Waxter Center for Senior Citizens and was an advocate for the arts in the Baltimore schools. "That was her dream, making sure the kids got what they deserve in the fine arts," Mr. Perkins said.

Ms. Glover was married twice, but raised five children on her own. There was always room for one more friend or student in her universe, he said. "If you met her, she always had words of encouragement. And, as you left her, she would never say goodbye. She would always say, 'See you later.'"

After consulting with her doctor, Ms. Glover's family decided to take her off life support. She died a little after 4 p.m.

"We're heartbroken," said Ms. Hamilton, program director at the Creative Alliance. At the same time, "We're really, really honored that her final performance was at our venue."

Arrangements for a funeral on Friday are incomplete.

An evening of celebration of Ruby Glover's life will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday at Sojourner- Douglass College, 200 N. Central Ave. in Baltimore. For more information, call 410-276-0306.

Besides Mr. Perkins, Ms. Glover is survived by Dana Perkins, Ira Glover, Toni Glover and Carla Logan.

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