Legendary R&B singer Sugar Pie DeSanto to be honored with the prestigious Arhoolie Award

Article by Thurman Watts
The Oaklandside.org

DeSanto performed frequently in West Oakland during the neighborhood’s heyday as a nightclub and music hotspot in the 1950s and 60s. Now she is being given the prestigious Arhoolie Award.

Born Peylia Marsema Balinton, Sugar Pie DeSanto launched her career in Oakland. 
Credit: Pete Rosos

Oakland-based rhythm and blues singer Sugar Pie DeSanto has been selected to receive the prestigious Arhoolie Award for 2020. The award honors extraordinary individuals and organizations who preserve, practice, and support traditional art forms. DeSanto and three other awardees will be honored during a live-streamed ceremony on December 10, 2020.

When Arhoolie Foundation board member Larry Batiste gave her the news of the hefty award, Ms. DeSanto was characteristically nonplussed. “See, I didn’t come here yesterday. I’ve been acknowledged, voted on, rooted for, and talked about all my life. Been there, done that. So I didn’t fall out with excitement. But it’s a nice thing. I’m enthused and feel lucky to be chosen.”

The fiery octogenarian (DeSanto turned 85 this year) was born in Brooklyn, raised in San Francisco, and made her musical career touring America and Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, dazzling audiences with acrobatic dance moves. Physically diminutive at 4 feet 11 inches, DeSanto is a self-confessed “stage arsonist” who takes pride in her showmanship. “Honey, I’ll burn the stage down!” she said in a recent interview. Read On Here