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She was ahead of her time, a genius. During an era when Jazz was the nation's popular music, Mary Lou Williams was one of its greatest innovators. As both a pianist and composer, she was a font of daring and creativity who helped shape the sound of 20th century America. And like the dynamic, turbulent nation in which she lived, Williams seemed to redefine herself with every passing decade.

From child prodigy to "Boogie-Woogie Queen" to groundbreaking composer to mentoring some of the greatest musicians of all time, Mary Lou Williams never ceased to astound those who heard her play. But away from the piano, Williams was a woman in a "man's world," a black person in a "whites only" society, an ambitious artist who dared to be different, and who struggled against the imperatives of being a "star."

Winner of Outstanding Independent Documentary at the Black Reel Awards. Winner of the HBO Competition Award for Best Documentary at Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival.

Comments (6)

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Dana

Amazing! So grateful to have access to her music.

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MaryAnn

Great Lady!

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Charles

Does anyone know where the filmmaker sourced all of the quotes from Ms Williams?

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Lori

Great documentary. I agree that she was one of the jazz innovators.

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Carol

This was astoundingly good. I didn't know anything about Mary Lou Williams and I was able to learn not only about her life but about American music through the 20th century.

Dylan avatar
Dylan

I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't know much about Mary Lou Williams. After watching this, I believe she is a true genius, a woman who transcended her time and culture. It's difficult to overstate the influence she had on musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and others, but perhaps even more ...Read more