Ethel Waters (October 31, 1896 – September 1, 1977) was an American blues and jazz vocalist and actress.
She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, although she began her career in the 1920s singing blues. Her best-known recording was her version of the spiritual, "His Eye is on the Sparrow", and she was the second African American ever nominated for an Academy Award.
Ethel Waters was born in Chester, Pennsylvania on October 31, 1896, as a result of her mother's rape at age 13 Ethel Waters was raised in a violent, impoverished home. She never lived in the same place for more than 15 months. She said of her difficult childhood, "I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family." Despite this unpromising start, Waters demonstrated early the love of language that so distinguishes her work. Moreover, according to women-in-jazz historian and archivist Rosetta Reitz, Waters' birth in the North and her peripatetic life exposed her to many cultures. For the rest of her life, this lent to her interpretation of southern blues a unique sensibility that pulled in eclectic influences from across American music.