Legendary BMI artist Ruth Brown, whose 1950s hits "Teardrops From My Eyes" and "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" helped establish the rhythm and blues genre and earned Atlantic Records the nickname "The House That Ruth Built," died Nov. 17 in a Las Vegas-area hospital. She was 78.
"Ruth brought the same passion and determination to her advocacy on behalf of R&B artists as she did to her long and brilliant career," said BMI President & CEO Del Bryant. "Her many close friends at BMI are deeply saddened to lose a great lady and an inspired artist who has left an indelible influence on R&B music."
The Grammy and Tony award winner was the driving force behind the formation of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit dedicated to providing financial and medical assistance to aging r&b and blues musicians, many of whom had failed to be adequately compensated early in their careers.
Born in Portsmouth, Va., Brown struggled to raise her two sons, working a variety of jobs during the 60s and 70s. She revived her career in the 80s and won a Best Actress Tony for the Broadway revue Black and Blue in 1989. She also played a deejay in the 1988 cult movie Hairspray and won a Grammy in 1990 for the album Blues on Broadway. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and in 1999, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Blues Foundation. Her autobiography, "Miss Rhythm," won first place in the BMI-sponsored Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Awards in 1997.
In addition to her two sons, Brown is also survived by three brothers and a sister. Plans for a public memorial by the R&B Foundation will be announced later.