Elisabeth Welch

Soft Lights and Sweet Music

Scarecrow Press, 2005


From her stage debut in 1922 to her final professional appearance in 1996, Elisabeth Welch, a sophisticated singer and actress, was an important figure in the world of musical theatre and popular song.

Born in New York, Elisabeth made her home in London in 1933 and introduced the famous torch song “Stormy Weather” to British audiences. That same year she began a career in London’s musical theatre that lasted over fifty years.

In the 1930s Cole Porter and Ivor Novello wrote songs for her, Paul Robeson was her leading man in films, and she enjoyed popularity as a cabaret star of London’s café society. During the Second World War, Elisabeth entertained the troops alongside such theatrical giants as Sir John Gielgud and Dame Edith Evans. In the post-war years she reigned supreme in sophisticated revues in London’s West End.

In 1979 Elisabeth’s appearance as ‘A Goddess’, singing “Stormy Weather2”, in Derek Jarman’s film version of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest won her a whole new legion of fans. At the age of 81, she returned to the Broadway stage and her performance in Jerome Kern Goes to Hollywood earned her a Tony nomination.

Reviewing Stephen Bourne’s biography of Elisabeth Welch in What’s On (24 August 2005), Tom Vallance said “Elisabeth’s rich, full life has been admirably documented by Stephen Bourne.”