Patty Waters (born 1946) is an American visionary avant-garde vocalist and composer, best known for her groundbreaking 1960s recordings for the legendary free jazz
label ESP-Disk. Captivated by the music of Billie Holiday, she sang with Bill Evans, Charlie Mingus, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock before coming to the attention of Albert Ayler, who introduced her to ESP-Disk's Bernard Stollman. The rest is history. Recorded with pianist Burton Greene, Waters' haunting 1966 debut Sings
juxtaposes a side of hushed self-composed jazz ballad miniatures with an iconoclastic take on the standard "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair." Sharing Ayler's affinity for the deconstruction of folk idioms, Waters dismantles the tune through a series of anguished wails, moans, whispers, and screams that cemented her reputation as a vocal innovator, predating the extended techniques of Yoko Ono
, Joan La Barbara, and Linda Sharrock, and cited as a direct influence to Diamanda Galás and Patti Smith's own freeform vocal excursions. The mythic side-long exposition stands as one of the 20th century's most harrowing expressions of madness and grief, its incantatory mutilation of the word "black" into a full-spectrum monochrome resounding with a particular potency at a time when battles for civil rights were erupting across the country.