At 100 years of age, Canadian jazz icon Eleanor Collins has one mantra — just take it one day at a time.
“That’s the thing that my mother said to me a long time ago,” Collins recalled from her home in Surrey, B.C., where she lives independently. “She said, ‘my dear, you just take one day at a time. Do the best you can that day and just keep moving … And it’s the best advice one could give one.'”
The musician’s remarkable life shows a person who made the very most of every day given to her.
The singer, television host and entertainer was born in Edmonton on Nov. 21, 1919 — part of the movement of black homesteaders who migrated from Oklahoma and settled on the prairies.
In the 1930s, she moved to Vancouver. Her work in the jazz scene — alongside Vancouver’s top musicians, Chris Gage, Lance Harrison, Doug Parker and Dave Robbins — brought her acclaim.
She recorded music, performed at Stanley Park, and broke ground by starring on CBC Vancouver’s Bamboula: A Day in the West Indies, which became the first Canadian television show with a mixed race cast.
In 1955, Collins became the first black woman to host her own television variety show in North America with CBC’s The Eleanor Show.
Her beauty, style and grace — which earned her comparisons to actress Lena Horne — was an important aspect of her work. Even at 16, when she started singing at an Edmonton restaurant, Collins recalls the wardrobe of black suits and bow ties of her fellow musicians.
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