“My mother was a gospel singer and my father was a gigolo. My momma gave
me the gospel and my daddy gave me the blues.” – Bettie Mae Fikes
Bettie Mae Fikes: Bio
Born in Selma, Alabama and descendant of a long line of country gospel singers and preachers, Bettie Mae Fikes began singing gospel alongside her mother at age 4. At the age of 16 she became a student leader for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the Civil Rights Movement, emerging as a music leader. In 1963 she was jailed for several weeks for protesting during the voting rights struggle in Selma. Bettie began singing with the SNCC Freedom Singers. Her passion and commitment garnered her the Long Walk to Freedom Award as well as a letter from California Governor Gray Davis acknowledging her roll in the Civil Rights movement.
Ms. Fikes has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Newport Jazz Festival, the Library of Congress, and numerous Blues Festivals and clubs. In 1964 she sang for the Democratic National Convention and in 2004 she sang for the Democratic National Convention where she was introduced by Maya Angelou. Ms. Fikes has performed with Joe Turner, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Albert King, James Brown, Bob Dylan, and Mavis Staples, among others.
Ms. Fikes is also a dynamic lecturer, having delivered moving speeches about diversity and civil rights at universities throughout the United States and Canada. Her singing has been recorded by the Smithsonian Institute and that music is still available on CD.
Bettie Mae Fikes has been called a musical genius of a storyteller, weaving the audience into her story with her impromptu lyrics with her throaty, rich, velvety voice. Small is stature, her voice can vibrate a room until the walls beg for mercy. Bettie says, “l travel around the country trying to deliver the message that my grandmother passed to me: ‘l am too strong to be broken down.’ …All I can say is we know where we’ve been but we don’t know where we’re going.”
Bettie Mae Fikes is a bright light in this world. She is a beacon of hope, a beloved daughter of Jesus, an adoring mother, a miracle of love to her friends, and a loving mistress to her music.