Chicago-based actress and singer E. Faye Butler just finished a run in Olney Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd” and will host the Helen Hayes Awards in May. We asked her to share the first three songs that popped into her head, two of which she’ll sing this weekend for a cabaret show she calls “a celebration of African-American women in music.”
‘Blue Skies,’ Ella Fitzgerald
“This song always makes me happy — it’s so optimistic,” Butler says. The jazz great’s peppy, scatted-up take on the Irving Berlin tune is even the current ringtone on her phone, although she won’t perform it on Saturday.
‘Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business),’ Aretha Franklin
This song, the B-side of Franklin’s iconic smash “Respect,” gets its due from Butler. “There’s nothing like a good blues song,” she says. “And no one does it better than Aretha Franklin.”
‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,’ Mahalia Jackson
This traditional Negro spiritual is one of Butler’s favorites. Her mother was best friends with Mahalia Jackson and even worked as her booking agent for a while. “Mahalia was my godmother, and she would hum this song a great deal,” Butler says.
Halcyon House, 3400 Prospect St. NW; Sat., 8:30 p.m., $60.