One career is enough for most people. Not Dee Dee Bridgewater who is a Grammy-Award-winning jazz singer; Tony-Award-winning musical actress (she was Glinda in the Broadway production of “The Wiz”); and radio host (NPR’s “JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater’’). She flies in from a show in Spain to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival this Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 to $100.
BOOKS: What are you reading currently?
BRIDGEWATER: An instruction manual! I’m putting together a little piece of furniture, a kitchen cart. I just moved from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. I was reading Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns,” but I left it on a plane two weeks ago. I was about halfway through. I’ve been so bummed out. I even cried. It’s one of those books you read every chance you can. I just reordered it today. I was reading that because I’m dealing with my genealogy as well as preparing to do a blues project.
BOOKS: Any other books you are reading for that?
BRIDGEWATER: No, that was the first one. I have been reading a lot of autobiographies. A book I read recently that I adored was Harry Belafonte’s “My Song,” which he wrote with Michael Shnayerson. Oh my lord. I was stupefied by all the things he had done in his life. Now that I’m in my 60s I’m interested in how the lives of the people I admire have gone. My life has been so unpredictable. I want to know if they went through as many high and lows as me.
BOOKS: Who else have you read about?
BRIDGEWATER: I never finished the biography of the singer Dinah Washington by Nadine Cohodas because my middle daughter stole it, but I thought it was fascinating. Then I read Cohodas’s biography of Nina Simone, “Princess Noir.’’ Wow. I cried reading about her difficult life. It filled in a lot of blanks for me. She was one of my idols. But I also experienced her mood swings and her doing some nasty things to me. She talked about me in a negative way when we did concerts together in Israel. I needed to understand what that was all about.
BOOKS: Did you do some reading about Billie Holiday to get ready for reviving your role in the musical “Lady Day”?
BRIDGEWATER: I reread her autobiography, “Lady Sings the Blues,” not long ago. Things that didn’t stick out to me when I did the play in the 1980s really stuck with me on this read, such as how much the police harassed her.
BOOKS: When you moved to Paris did that change your reading?
BRIDGEWATER: I didn’t do a lot of reading in France because I was trying so hard to learn French. I did read “Segu” by Maryse Condé about the history of Mali and the Mandingo kingdom. It turns out my ancestry is from there. But otherwise that was a dry reading period for me.
BOOKS: Are you mostly a nonfiction reader?
BRIDGEWATER: No. I read mostly fiction, except for these biographies. My favorite
novelist is Toni Morrison. I love the way that she writes. “The Bluest Eye” is my
favorite book of hers. I just got a book by the poet Nikki Giovanni. I used to follow
her and the poet Gwendolyn Brooks. I was trying to support black writers. I used to
read a lot of African-American authors, such as James Baldwin and Richard Wright. I need to go back and read some of their books.
BOOKS: Do you have a reading bucket list?
BRIDGEWATER: I’ve been wanting to read Tennessee Williams’s plays and Hemingway. I’ve only read “The Old Man and Sea.” I’d like to read about Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II. I met him on several occasions. He was so charismatic. I have a thing for Poland too. I don’t know what that is, but I need to figure that out. But I don’t really have a bucket list. I just want to do more reading.