Carole Denise Fredericks was born June 5, 1952 in the working-class community of Springfield, MA. An African-American from a talented musical family, Carole was the sister of the famed bluesman Taj Mahal. She sang in church, and she participated in chorus as an extracurricular activity at school. By the time she graduated from Classical High School in 1972, Carole had distinguished herself with her voice and was determined to become “the greatest blues singers in the world.” She moved to San Francisco, CA where her brother, Taj Mahal, put her to work immediately as a studio singer. She recorded three albums with Taj. On the weekends, she sang with a trio at La Belle Helene, a little bistro owned by a French couple. After each performance, the patrons and owner always suggested, “Carole, our country would love a singer like you. Why don’t you go to Paris?” Carole took their suggestions to heart. She moved back home to Springfield where she worked for a year to earn enough money for an airline ticket and living expenses. In January 1979, Carole boarded a Laker Airline flight to Paris, France. She was 27 years old.
When Carole Fredericks emigrated from the United States to France to pursue a career in music, she added her name to a long list of African Americans who found refuge and personal expression in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and along the Seine. She was not the first African American to meet with success in France. Since the 19th Century the road to Paris has been well worn by African America's crème de la crème: Frederick Douglas, Henry O. Tanner, Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Gordon Parks, Josephine Baker, Nina Simone and so many more.
Carole had limited exposure to French in the United States, and yet she mastered the language. To accomplish this goal, she immersed herself in French culture and learned the language through music. As her command of the language grew, so did her reputation. A gifted singer who willingly lent her talent and enthusiasm to every project, Carole’s career soared. As a member of Fredericks Goldman Jones, one of France’s best known music groups, she infused rhythm and blues, soul and gospel into mainstream French music. She was a revered celebrity and a humanitarian in her adopted country. On June 7, 2001, she succumbed to a heart attack while on tour in Senegal, West Africa. She was 49 years old. Her death left an unmistakable void in the music world and in the hearts of millions of fans, friends and her family. At the time of her death, Carole had lived in Paris for 22 years, and she spoke fluent French. Her catalog of music included solo recordings in both French and English. She had become a headliner act in Europe and Africa.
Ms. Fredericks’ desire to better the plight of the homeless, hungry, battered, and ill won her a special place in the hearts of Europeans and Africans. Carole Fredericks’ untimely death on June 7, 2001 came after performing a benefit concert to raise funds for a children’s hospital in Dakar, Senegal. Carole was laid to rest on June 18, 2001 in historic Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris, France. Montmartre’s official brochure lists Ms. Fredericks’ gravesite along with many French notables.
Carole remains an icon in the French music today and her influence on popular music has endured. From humble beginnings in Western Massachusetts to a place on the world stage, Carole Denise Fredericks evolved into a consummate artist, humanitarian and citizen of the world.
For more information about Carole Fredericks, please visit CDF Music Legacy.
Carole made numerous guest appearances and played various characters in films throughout her career. Her film roles included: Pirates (1986) ‘Sunshine’; I Love You (1986) ‘Angèle’; Les deux crocodiles (1987) ‘Mamoudou, femme de Julien’; Roselyne et les lions (1989) ‘La Grenouille’; Tom est tout seul (1995) ‘La chanteuse noire.’ She was also a featured artist in Mylène Farmer's concert video (1990) and Les Enfoirés Les Restos du cœur videos from 1992 – 2001.
Carole was a generous woman who gave her time and talent to humanitarian causes including, but not limited to, Les Enfoirés, Les restos du coeur, Amnesty International, and International Women’s Day.
“A larger than life figure with a generous spirit, Carole was a performer who threw herself into her live performances body and soul. She liked nothing more than getting involved in fund-raising tours with singers and musician friends. Indeed, Carole was a regular at charity concerts organized by Restos du Cœur and Les Enfoirés. On March 8th (2001)... she brought the house down at “Voix de l’Espoir [Voices of Hope]” concert organized on International Women’s Day. Taking the stage at Club Med World in Paris with a host of other female singers including Princess Erika, Jocelyne Beroard, Rokia Traoré and Lââm, Carole helped to raise much needed funds for the construction of a Pan-African children’s hospital in Dakar [Senegal, West Africa].”
- Pierre Rene-Worms for rfi.fr