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Pioneer, actor and singer Herb Jeffries has died at the age of 100. The famous star died from heart failure at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center in California on Sunday, May 25. His death was announced by biographer Raymond Strait to the Los Angeles Times.
Jeffries, real name Umberto Valentino, starred in five Western movies in the 1930s. They all featured all-black casts, including Harlem on the Prairie, Rhythm Rodeo and The Bronze Buckaroo.
Later on, he portrayed the lead role in 1957 movie Calypso Joe, opposite Angie Dickinson.
In addition to his acting career, Herb was also a successful singer. He toured with Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, and later even joined Duke Ellington’s band, and together they performed at the iconic bandleader’s Jump For Joy revue in Los Angeles back in 1941.
As an actor, Herb also made numerous guest appearances in popular TV shows back in the 1960s, including I Dream of Jeannie, Hawaii Five-O, The Name of the Game and The Virginian.
After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Herb recorded hits such as When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano and Basin Street Blues.
Then he moved to France in the early 1950s to open nightclubs.
In 1995, Herb recorded a well-received album of iconic Western songs, titled The Bronze Buckaroo Rides Again.
Herb Jeffries will always be remembered as the ‘first black singing cowboy of the movies’.