Jazz singer Joya Sherrill Guilmenot dies at 86

Joya Sherrill, who sang with Duke Ellington as a teenager, toured the Soviet Union with Benny Goodman and was one of the first African-American performers to host a children’s television show, died on June 28 at her home in Great Neck, N.Y. She was 85.

Her death was confirmed by her son, Richard Guilmenot III, who said she had been suffering from leukemia.

Born in Bayonne, N.J., on Aug. 20, 1924, Joya Sherrill originally aspired to be a writer. While she was still in high school, her father arranged through a mutual friend for her to meet Duke Ellington so she could sing him the lyrics she had written to his theme song, “Take the ‘A’ Train.”

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Pictured: Jazz vocalist Joya Sherrill, who sang with Ellington thorughout most of the 1940s, stands at center rear (she wears a pearl necklace). A poster of Ellington is on the wall, (Photo by Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images).