Born: May 8, 1946
Died: May 26, 1987
African American American opera singer Joy Simpson, soprano, was a winner of the 1975-76 Walter W. Naumburg Competition, celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Simpson was one of eight children of an illustrious Philadelphia musical family. With her five sisters and two brothers she formed The Simpson Family Singers in 1961, and the group performed together for 10 years, singing sporadically after that. Simpson attended Temple University and New York's Juilliard School of Music.
She made her professional debut at Carnegie Hall in February 1983 with the American Symphony Orchestra. Later that year she sang in London's Westminster Abbey as part of a tribute to the English philanthropist William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in Britain in the 19th century.
Her tour became controversial because she broke a cultural boycott of South Africa called by foes of the apartheid. She was criticized by local black opposition leaders and by anti-apartheid musicians in the United States and Europe.
A lyric soprano and member of the Tri-Cities Opera Company, she favored spirituals and gospel music.
Simpson died in 1987. The 41-year-old soprano collapsed on stage during a controversial South African tour at the Cape Town City Hall after singing the black spiritual, 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.' Members of the orchestra first thought the collapse was part of her act, but doctors later diagnosed she suffered a serious brain hemorrhage and said she had slipped into a coma.
She was scheduled to perform the role of Serena in an Opera-Columbus production in Columbus, Ohio, of George Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess' in April. In June she was to appear in the title role of Verdi's 'Aida' in a production of Opera North at the Philadelphia Academy of Music.