© 2020 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Election Day is less than a week away. Inform your vote with our 2020 Voter Guide.
Arts

‘She'd Make The Stage Her Throne’ — St. Louis Mourns Kim Massie, Its Resident Diva

Kim Massie began entering and winning karaoke contests 20 years ago, and turned those experiences into a new career.  [7/11/19]
File photo/ Jeremy D. Goodwin
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Kim Massie, shown performing at Missouri History Museum in 2019, built her career through longstanding residencies at music venues in and around St. Louis.

St. Louis has lost one of its great voices.

Kim Massie, a versatile vocalist whose two decades of performing earned her the nickname “The St. Louis Diva,” died Monday. She was in her early 60s.

“She was the queen of Broadway,” said John May, owner of BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups.

Massie often performed at the downtown St. Louis venue, as well as the nearby Broadway Oyster Bar.

Fans also associate her heavily with Beale on Broadway, where she maintained a weekly residency from 2001 until the venue closed last year. She was such a popular draw there that she added a second weekly show for 14 of those years.

That was the venue where she found her footing as a professional musician — expanding her repertoire, breaking in her band the Solid Senders and developing the stamina to belt out songs for hours at a time.

Massie was born in St. Louis but moved with her family to Lorain, Ohio, as a child. She worked as a nurse’s aide and raised three children there before returning to the St. Louis region in 1999. That’s when she launched her singing career in earnest, winning a series of karaoke contests before building a resume as a professional performer.

“People loved her. It was an over-the-top show, and she really related directly to the audience,” May said. “When Kim Massie was in the house, everybody knew it. She’d make the stage her throne and then sing the songs and make people happy.”

Her son Adam Massie, who had been her manager since 2008, said she had a heart attack onstage at BB’s in February. That led to open heart surgery and additional health concerns, he said. Family members organized an August fundraiser to cover her medical bills.

In a July 2019 interview, Massie said she had recently spent six days in the hospital recovering from sepsis and pneumonia.

Kim Massie is the self-proclaimed "St. Louis Diva," a title she's earned in more than two decades of performing. [7/11/19]
File photo/Jeremy D. Goodwin
Kim Massie, seen here performing at Missouri History Museum in 2019, was a charismatic presence onstage.

Massie was best known as an interpreter of songs, though her 2012 album “Inspired” includes several original compositions. She made the occasional guest appearance with Cindy Lauper, Nelly and other stars but built her reputation with weekly residencies over the years at many venues in St. Louis and the Metro East.

After Beale on Broadway closed in January 2019, she booked new weekly engagements at Broadway Oyster Bar and Jazzy 159 in Fairview Heights, where she lived. She was a perennial favorite at Missouri History Museum’s concert series, Twilight Tuesdays.

Massie was immensely proud of her success creating her life as a full-time musician.

“I used to have a business card that said ‘Stay in touch with your dream,’” she said in the 2019 interview. “I had to update it to ‘Living the dream I stayed in touch with.’”

Though often described as a blues and soul singer, Massie took care to note her wide array of influences. Her repertoire included tribute sets celebrating Aretha Franklin, great women of rock 'n' roll and the jazz-rock group Steely Dan.

“I don't like being pigeonholed or stereotyped,” Massie said. “You see this Black woman so you think gospel, or jazz, blues, something like that. OK, yeah. But I’m much more. That’s how I keep working.”

She said that as a child she would sing gospel music in church, then go home and listen to bands like the Rascals and the Beatles on the radio. “I didn’t let anybody try to embarrass me, to ask ‘Why are you listening to that?’ Because I like it. It makes me feel good. That’s all the explanation I would give,” Massie said.

Adam Massie said he is exploring ways of paying tribute to his mother, including a celebratory concert and an effort to have a street named in her honor.

“My mom was my best friend,” he said. “Her life was well lived.”

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

St. Louis Public Radio is your trusted source for reliable reporting on politics in the St. Louis region, Jefferson City, Rolla, and the Metro East. Through Election Day and beyond, we will be here, delivering the news, providing context and keeping you updated on everything that is happening. It’s all possible because of donations from people like you. Support this work by making a donation today.