The tragic news that Micki Grant, a 92-year-old actress, composer, lyricist, writer, and musician, had passed away on Saturday, August 21 at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, spread quickly online.
I consider myself really fortunate to have interviewed Grant in 2018 about her ground-breaking musical, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope.
Who is Micki Grant?
Many in the crowd had seen her musical when it was initially performed in 1972, and they went absolutely nuts during the performance, singing and dancing along to all 23 songs.
Grant made history as the first woman to pen the score, book, and lyrics for a Broadway musical, and the revival of the show in 2018 attested to its enduring popularity.
The musical’s themes remained timely since they covered a wide range of issues impacting Black people today, from ghetto life and slumlords to feminism and student protests. Through the use of jazz, blues, gospel, calypso, and soul music, Grant was able to bring these issues to the surface.
Micki Grant Career
She never missed an opportunity to credit the late Vinnette Carroll, the musical’s original director from 1972, with the creation of the show. Savion Glover oversaw the production in New York’s City Center.
The musical, which premiered in 1972, garnered nominations for best musical, best original score, best book, and best director at the Tony Awards that year. Grant became the first female composer to win a Grammy in the best musical theatre album category with this release.
Grant was honoured with the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance, the Most Promising Lyricist award, the Obie Award for Music and Lyrics, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.
She participated in seventeen stage shows altogether, some of which include “It’s So Nice to Be Civilized,” “Prodigal Sister,” “Eubie!” and “Sweet & Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen.”
While many people were familiar with Grant because of her musical career, she first gained widespread recognition in 1965 thanks to her performance as Peggy Nolan on the TV series “Another World.” She also appeared on All My Children, Edge of Night, and Guiding Light.
Minnie Louise Perkins was born on June 30th, 1929 to parents Oscar and Gussie Perkins in Chicago. Her mother worked as a saleswoman for Stanley Home Products, while her father was a barber and self-taught pianist.
She began performing in local musicals and plays at the tender age of eight. She also began taking double-bass and piano lessons. She began composing music at age 14, performed in amateur productions beginning at age 18, studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and began her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois.
She was featured in “Fly Blackbird,” a 1962 musical revue that addressed racial discrimination. In 1963, she made her Broadway debut in a production of “Tambourines to Glory” by Langston Hughes. She had a role in the 1964 production of “The Cradle Will Rock,” which was based on the 1930s.
Micki Grant Awards and Honours
In the 1990s, she starred as one of the Delany sisters opposite Lizan Mitchell in the touring production of “Having Our Say,” which ran for two years across the United States and South Africa. That act won her a Helen Hayes Award, so you know it was good.
Grant has helmed numerous performances, including “Two Ha Ha’s and a Homeboy,” with the Crossroads Theater Company. Starting in 1999, she served on the Council of The Dramatists Guild, which she joined in 1972.
Grant was awarded numerous accolades for her extraordinary life, including the NAACP Image Award, the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre Festival, the Sidney Poitier Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dramatists Guild of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Despite the title of the musical that made her famous, “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” Grant showed her compassion and commitment to the predicament of her people. As Grant put it in our 2018 interview, “With all of this, we have survived because we do cope, we find some way.”
This statement captures the spirit of the musical and its message. Despite everything we’ve been through, we’re proudly moving forward. When you’re feeling depressed, you tell yourself you’ll never be able to pull through, but you always do.
Grant’s relatives that are still alive include her cousins Daryl Walker and Kimberly Eberhardt-Casteline and her nieces and nephews.
On Monday, October 11, 2021, at 7 p.m., a memorial service will be held at The Riverside Church, located at 91 Claremont Avenue; however, attendance is limited and RSVPs are required.