“Carole was born once in the United States, the land of her parents, her childhood, her preparation, her musical culture. She was born a second time in France, the land of her artistic recognition, her loves and friends, her pleasures, her home. Yet a third time she was born in Senegal, the land of her roots, her heart, perhaps the place where she felt best, the land of her final departure, as well. Although Carole was profoundly American, she was symbol of the mix of cultures that she represented in the most beautiful way: by her voice, through the music.”
When Carole Fredericks first left home, she moved from Springfield, Massachusetts, a sleepy, leafy New England town, all the way cross-country to San Francisco, a city in the early 1970s synonymous with a vibrant, iconoclastic New Age lifestyle. Seven years there transformed her into an experienced performer but exposure in the Bay Area clubs left her feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled. San Francisco was larger than Springfield, but it still wasn’t large enough. Fredericks was a big Black woman with a big, rich voice. She wanted to sing to the world, and she wanted the world to hear her. Ambitious and fearless, she moved again. This time, however, she was not simply leaving home; she was leaving the United States of America. And in 1979, in a time-honored tradition featuring Josephine Baker in the Twenties, Richard Wright in the Forties and James Baldwin in the Fifties, she moved to Paris. The City of Lights became her home for twenty-two years and her final resting place.
Although Fredericks left her mother country, she never left her roots. Steeped in the fertile music traditions of her parents, striving professionals from the Carolinas and the West Indies, she emerged as a powerful singer who wove the passionate threads of blues, jazz, gospel and R&B into a uniquely French tapestry. Johnny Hallyday, Mylène Farmer, Patricia Kaas and other European stars hired her for background vocals in concerts and session work. In 1990, she joined Jean-Jacques Goldman and Michael Jones to form the phenomenally successful trio, Fredericks Goldman Jones. For ten years they performed in front of sold-out crowds throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and Japan. During this period Fredericks also released two popular solo albums, Springfield (1996), an album in English dedicated to her mother and her hometown, and Couleurs et parfums (1999), a tour de force of cultural mixes including Wolof, the national language of Senegal, a country where she always, instantly felt at home. One particularly intriguing element in Fredericks’s life story is the fact that she thrived in France although when she first arrived she spoke no French. She became such a confident conversationalist and performer that native speakers often thought she was born into a francophone family.
She had done the impossible—struck out on her own and achieved international fame and success – when, at age 49 she was suddenly felled by a massive heart attack in Dakar in 2001. Carole Fredericks was buried in Montmartre Cemetery on June 18, 2001.