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Who was Evelyn Dove? Google Doodle celebrates first black singer on BBC Radio

EVELYN Dove might not be a name you’ve heard before, but her impact on British culture was significant and is still felt today. From being born in the West End to blazing

EVELYN Dove might not be a name you've heard before, but her impact on British culture was significant and is still felt today.

From being born in the West End to blazing a trail across Europe and the US — here's how Evelyn made her mark on the world.

 Evelyn Dove was a celebrated musician and actress who rose to fame during the first half of the 20th century
Alamy
Evelyn Dove was a celebrated musician and actress who rose to fame during the first half of the 20th century

Who was Evelyn Dove?

Dove was born in 1902 in High Holborn to her father Francis from Sierra Leone and mother Augusta, who was English.

She was the youngest of the couple's two children — with her older brother Frank later going on to study at Oxford before fighting for Britain in World War One.

During his time in the armed forces Frank was awarded the Military Medal.

From a young age, Dove showed exceptional promise as a musician, with her talent at both singing and the piano shining through.

She studied at the Royal Academy of Music between 1917 and 1919. Her graduation year was the cause for double celebration as she married husband Milton Alphonso Luke.

Dove was to later marry two more times, to Felix Allen and then to William Newton Brantley, whom she stayed with until her death.

Soon after she joined the SSO (Southern Syncopated Orchestra) a band made up of British West Indian, West African and American musicians.

The group were helping to introduce and popularise black music around the UK.

 Dove, centre, performs in 1930
Getty - Contributor
Dove, centre, performs in 1930

Life with the SSO

SSO journeyed across the UK performing but in October 1921 tragedy struck when the ship they were sailing on from Glasgow to Dublin collided with another vessel and left 35 passengers dead when it sank off the west coast of Scotland.

Dove survived and continued to perform and in 1925 joined the Chocolate Kiddies, a group based in the US who were on a tour of Europe when their paths crossed.

From here Dove's star rose rapidly and she even performed in front of future Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the USSR.

The peak of Dove's career came between 1939 and 1949 when she had a regular role on BBC Radio, performing Serenade in Sepia, a series so popular it later become a TV show.

She also had roles in the West End.

Much of her life was recorded by Stephen Bourne, who had researched her for the Dictionary of National Biography.

In 1941 Dove died in Epsom, Surrey, following a bout of pneumonia at the age of 84.

Her work was highlighted by journalist and broadcaster Moira Stuart in the early 90s - in part for the way it opened up new opportunities for black women in British entertainment.

 Evelyn Dove is being remembered with a Google Doodle
GOOGLE
Evelyn Dove is being remembered with a Google Doodle

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What is a Google Doodle?

In 1998, the search engine founders Larry and Sergey drew a stick figure behind the second 'o' of Google as a message to that they were out of office at the Burning Man festival and with that, Google Doodles were born.

The company decided that they should decorate the logo to mark cultural moments and it soon became clear that users really enjoyed the change to the Google homepage.

In that same year, a turkey was added to Thanksgiving and two pumpkins appeared as the 'o's for Halloween the following year.

Now, there is a full team of doodlers, illustrators, graphic designers, animators and classically trained artists who help create what you see on those days.

Among the Doodles published in past months were designs commemorating German scientist Robert Koch, Jan Ingenhousz (who discovered photosynthesis) and the 50th anniversary of kids coding languages being introduced.

The history of the Google Doodle

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