MIAMI - Maya Angelou, who died in her North Carolina home Wednesday morning, was once a dancer and a singer. She wanted to connect with her African roots through music and adored Celia Cruz.
In her book Letter to My Daughter, Maya Angelou dedicated a chapter to the Cuban star. Angelou said that when Cruz came to the United States, and played in a theater on Upper Broadway in New York City -- she went to see Cruz every day of her stay.
"She exploded on the stage and was sensual and touchingly present," Angelou said in the book.
Angelou studied dance and drama at the California Labor School in Oakland California when she was a teenager. In her 20s, she moved to New York to study African dance with Trinidadian dancer Pearl Primus.
In the early 1950s, Angelou danced and sang calypso in night clubs in San Francisco. And after she toured Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess she recorded her first album Miss Calypso in 1957.
Angelou said that Cruz taught her that "all great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us all that we are more alike than we are unalike."
The two women received the United States National Medal of Arts: Cruz in 1994 and Angelou in 2000.
After Cruz died in 2003, Angelou wrote the foreword to Celia, My Life, Cruz's autobiography, and she also contributed to the audio file titled Celia Cruz: The Absolute Collection.Maya Angelou's Calypso
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