Rosa King (1945?-2000)

Practically unknown in the U.S., and even obscure in her home state of Georgia, jazz and blues saxophonist/guitarist/drummer/singer Rosa King maintained an active 30-year career that included touring the world with a diverse array of artists including Cab Calloway, Ben E. King, Slide Hampton, Lionel Hampton and Hans Dulfer. As a bandleader, King was known throughout Europe for her magnetic live performances and show-stopping stage antics. She won numerous awards and recorded four albums, none released on American labels. King died Dec. 12 of cardiac arrest while performing in Italy.
Rosa King was born in Macon sometime in the 1940s (she kept her age a secret), and quickly moved to New York City to pursue a career in dance while in her teens. She ended up playing tenor and became one of the few professional female saxophonists of the time. King relocated to Amsterdam in 1969 and, while living in Europe, played the North Sea Jazz Festival 10 times and starred in TV shows and movies. One film featured ex-Animal Eric Burden, who regularly made guest appearances at her shows.
In October of 2000, King returned to her home state of Georgia for the first time in three decades. She played with her band the Looters in Savannah, Athens and Atlanta, doing a low-profile gig at the Northside Tavern on Oct. 13.
King played her last headlining gig Dec. 9, at the Bonnerie in Maastricht, Holland. The following day she left for Rome to perform at a televised concert in front of a live audience of 60,000. A tape of this show, Rosa King's final performance, was shown at her Dec. 18 funeral in Amsterdam.