Follow up to this post
Thank you all for the wonderful response! I don't want to drag this out for too long, so I'm going to take a few sharp turns with my interpretation of "obscurity"
6. Hazel Scott (1920-1981)
Scott was born in Trinidad and Tobago but spent the majority of her life in the States after her family moved to New York City. After a handful of years spent in Harlem, Hazel Scott was considered a prodigy at the ripe age of 8, much like Elizabeth Cotten. Unlike Cotten, Scott was taken on by a professor from Juilliard. Even though Scott was considered the premiere jazz pianist of her time and the host of her own show, she disappeared out of public view after facing the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, choosing to flee to France after her life and career was picked apart. She stayed there for ten years, '57-'67, returning to an America that was in the throes of the Civil Rights movement. She wasn't just a brilliant pianist, but an awe-inspiring performer, a true show-woman.
7. Henri-Pierre Noël (19??-present)
I sincerely hope you have the time to spare...and you should because it's quarantine, baby! Haitian born Henri-Pierre is probably the most notorious name in music obscurity because of this TedTalk by Alexis Charpentier, a music archaeologist who chanced upon Henri-Pierre's music and was so blown away by it, he got involved in its re-issue. I don't know what else to write other than the fact that Henri-Pierre recorded his early work in the '70s, lived, and was truly found thirty years later.
8. Beverly Watkins (1939-2019)
As requested! Beverly "Guitar" Watkins enjoyed momentum in the early parts of her career as she played with acts like B.B. King, James Brown, and Ray Charles. Much like Ed Lewis, Watkins never broke out on her own until 1998 when her work was thrust back into the spotlight. Watkins spent the last twenty years of her life playing festivals, right up until her death last year.
9. Fats Waller (1904-1943)
Fats Waller wasn't lost in the shuffle of his time, but his premature death makes his oeuvre that much more noteworthy. Waller's career was kickstarted by selling a tune to a white man to be used on a successful show in 1928, an act that was mirrored at the end of his life when he composed a Broadway musical that had a predominantly white audience called Early to Bed. He passed away from complications related to pneumonia.
10. Azealia Banks (1991-present)
Honestly, I'm Indian. I am that curry-scented bitch and while Azealia has consistently disappointed me, I can't stop her from making music because I get this look on my face...
...I forgive you, Azealia. My unconscious anti-blackness has been a conscious unlearning process. We are all learning to be better to one another. Ms. Banks is dealing with some mean colorism that exacerbates her mental illness which, for some reason, is the price for sheer brilliance. Azealia might put up a front, but she is obviously a pure, unadulterated artist which means she is wayyyyyyy too soft for this world. Doja Cat could never! We all know that Azealia is 100% behind these tracks because no one wants to work with her, meaning no one can take the credit away. Azealia did not molest someone's child, she did not rape someone in the studio. There is a chasm in music without that follow up and I am not here for a world where...everything that is being allowed to happen is allowed to happen because of colorism. That being said, I'm sure she is about to do something that will make me change my mind yet again.
Honorable Mention: Hako Yamasaki (1957-present)
If you're still with me, and I hope you are, please take some time for Yamasaki's 1975 album, Tobimasu. It's jazz that was too far ahead of its time when it was released and still doesn't quite mesh well with the music landscape in Japan. It's an album meant for the world, proving that you don't need to know the language to understand the emotional depth behind every breath. Yamasaki was 18 years old when she laid out the vocals on this magnificent piece of *chef's kiss* art.
I don't think there will be a part 3