Robin Adair - Actress, Vocalist - Legacy Award
BMHOF Class of 2014
Robin Adair, born in 1945, embarked upon a career that is a portrait of versatility; the breadth and scope of her accomplishments are a legacy of examples that show the power of music to transcend the boundaries of entertainment, and influence social change in profound ways.
Born in Buffalo New York’s West Side, Robin was a prodigious child. At only seven years old, she studied with Jane Keeler at Studio Theater School, rapidly being seasoned on stage as a singer and actress. Robin appeared on stages in Buffalo, New York City, and New Jersey before her 10th birthday.
By the time Robin celebrated her 14th birthday, she had performed alongside Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun,” played the role of “Libby” in the Broadway production of “Giants, Sons of Giants” with Nancy Kelly, and appeared in Oscar-winning films, among them “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The Miracle Worker,” starring Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke (the latter a fellow classmate of Robin’s at Quintanos School for Young Professionals), and “The World of Henry Orient.” She gained further onstage experience as part of the cast of the off-Broadway production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
An article in the New York Times, titled “In Her Spare Time, She’s Just Charming” was based on an interview with Robin. Documenting her formidable achievements, New York Times’ reporter Norton Mockridge states the following: “… [Robin], who has appeared on Broadway, off-Broadway, in stock, on radio and TV, in films and variety shows, who is a model, who recorded such songs as ‘I’m Tired of Crying’ and‘ Fall in Love With Me,’ who is writing a poetic life of Christ for children, [is] just 14 years old.”
These accomplishments led to teen-idol status, and Robin’s picture began appearing in popular magazines of the era, among them Cashbox, Teen Life, Screen World, and Radio Mirror. It was also the beginning of what would become her greatest work and historical legacy.
Robin turned her attention to singing and songwriting. Her immense resume placed her directly in the path of powerful and influential figures in the record industry. She had been extensively prepared: singing and performing onstage in productions on Broadway and off-Broadway honed Robin as a singer. She had learned to play guitar, and began writing her own music while performing the music of others.
In the mid 1960’s, Robin’s path intersected with Curtis Reginald Lewis, the legendary composer of songs that the likes of Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, and (recently) Diana Krall, performed into musical history. Lewis is also remembered as one of the first black composers to own and operate a publishing company (which he launched in the 1950s).
Robin signed a record deal with Curtis Reginald Lewis’s Powertree Records- a subsidiary of Capitol Records- which released her music for the next several years. Among the releases was the A/B-sided single “Pick Up Sticks/Alone Alone,” written by legendary blues guitarist and songwriter Eddie King. The newly-signed singer/songwriter found herself in demand for appearances and performances.
Robin appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dick Clark Show, The Patty Duke show, accepted the role of “Annie” in the popular musical variety series Hootenanny, and tirelessly contributed her talents to philanthropic causes of all types. She co-hosted the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon with The Monkees’ singer Davy Jones, co-hosted “Teens against Dystrophy” with Sal Mineo, and worked with U.S.O., Warwick Boys Home, Veterans Hospital, and countless similar organizations.
Robin used her teen-idol status to give a voice to social needs; she saw a kindred spirit in her label boss, Curtis Reginald Lewis. Both were involved with civil rights causes in New York City. Robin was given the opportunity to perform at integrated concerts and shows in multiple cities. These opportunities became part of Robin’s multifaceted career, having a role in influencing change. Robin performed at integrated events, working side-by-side with black musicians in the 1960’s- a time when segregation became a nationally polarized and dangerously volatile issue. Robin Adair sang and entertained while historically playing her role in the desegregation of the music industry.
Robin passed away in 1977- survived by her beloved newlywed husband, Albert Webster and cherished relatives. Her untimely death left a legacy of musical accomplishments that she used as a platform for benefitting others. Robin Adair’s life is a lesson in how creative gifts and talents coupled with success can be used benevolently for social unity, philanthropy, and bringing help and hope to others.
Robin was deeply tender
-- NEIL SCOTT, NATIONAL RADIO AND TV PERSONALITY