Dee Dee Bridgewater was born Denise Eileen Garrett, May 27, 1950, in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father, Matthew Garrett, was a jazz trumpeter and teacher at Manassas High School, and through his playing, she was exposed to jazz early on. At the age of sixteen, she was a member of a rock and rhythm'n'blues trio, singing in clubs in Michigan. At 18, she studied at the Michigan State University before she went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. With their jazz band, she toured the Soviet Union in 1969.
The next year, she met trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, and after their marriage, they moved to New York City, where Cecil played in Horace Silver's band. In the early 1970s, Bridgewater joined the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra as the lead vocalist. This marked the beginning of her jazz career, and she performed with many of the great jazz musicians of the time, such as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and others. She performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1973. In 1974, her first own album, entitled Afro Blue, appeared, and she also performed on Broadway in the musical The Wiz. For her role as Glinda the Good Witch she won a Tony Award in 1975 as "best featured actress," and the musical also won the 1976 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
After touring France in 1984 with the musical Sophisticated Ladies, she moved to Paris in 1986. The same year saw her in Lady Day as Billie Holiday, for which role she was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award, as well as recording the song Precious Thing with Ray Charles. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she returned from the world of musical to jazz. She performed at the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy and the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990, and four years later, she finally collaborated with Horace Silver, whom she had long admired, and released the album Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver. Performed also at the San Francisco Jazz Festival (1996). Her 1997 tribute album Dear Ella won her the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, and the 1998 album Live at Yoshi's was also worth a Grammy nomination. Performed again at the Monterey Jazz Festival (1998). She has also explored on This Is New (2002) the songs of Kurt Weill, and, on her next album J'ai deux amours (2005), the French Classics.
Her album Red Earth, released in 2007, features Africa-inspired themes and contributions by numerous musicians from Mali. Performed at the San Francisco Jazz Festival (2007). On December 8, 2007 she performed with the Terence Blanchard Quintet at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She tours frequently, including overseas gigs around the world. October 16, 2009 found her opening the Shanghai JZ Jazz Festival, in which she sang tunes associated with Ella Fitzgerald, along with Ellington compositions and other jazz standards.
Bridgewater is a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and she is the first American to be inducted to the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie. She has received the Award of Arts and Letters in France. She also won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in The Wiz. Bridgewater is the recipient of the 2014 AUDELCO Award in the category of Outstanding Performance in a Musical-Female for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in the Off-Broadway bio-musical LADY DAY at the Little Shubert Theater.
1974 Afro Blue (Jazz Trio)
1980 Dee Dee Bridgewater (Disco Elektra)
1977 Just Family (Disco Elektra)
1979 Bad for Me (Disco Elektra)
1989 Victim of Love (Disco Polydor)
1989 Live in Paris (Jazz EmArcy)
1992 In Montreux (Jazz Verve)
1993 Keeping Tradition (Jazz Verve)
1995 Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver (Jazz Verve)
1997 Dear Ella (Jazz Verve)
2000 Live at Yoshi's (Jazz Verve)
2002 This Is New (Jazz Verve)
2005 J'ai deux amours (Jazz DDB)
2007 Red Earth Jazz (DDB)
2010 Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee Bridgewater (Jazz EmArcy)
2011 Midnight Sun (Compilation) (Jazz EmArcy)
2015 Dee Dee's Feathers Featuring Irvin Mayfield, The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (OKeh Records)