Bessie Smith

Born 15 April 1894. Died 26 September 1937
Bessie Smith
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1894-04-15
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Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith Biography (BBC)

Known as “The Empress of the Blues”, Bessie Smith was an imposing figure, who was both the most artistically and commercially successful of the female “Classic” blues singers of the 1920s. Although she had a very robust voice, she was nevertheless capable of conveying great depths of emotion, and this distinguished her from most of her contemporaries, who lacked her control of the nuances of singing. She also borrowed a lot of techniques from early jazz instrumentalists, such as growls and smears, and the process worked in reverse as well, her empathy with Louis Armstrong, and their trading of phrases on many of her records being a particular high point in her recorded catalogue.

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she started her career in a touring tent show in 1912, alongside another early blues specialist, Ma Rainey. For a decade she toured in minstrel shows, in medicine shows and on the African American TOBA theatre circuit, before she made her first record Downhearted Blues in 1923. The extraordinary success of this disc not only led her to renegotiate the stingy contract offered to her by pianist Clarence Williams, but to become the best-selling black artist of the 1920s.

Throughout the 1920s, she recorded with many of the era’s finest jazz musicians, including Fletcher Henderson and members of his band, and the the pianist James P. Johnson, with whom she cut her masterpiece Backwater Blues. She was brilliant at playing off the sounds of her instrumental accompanists, notably Henderson’s trombonist Charlie Green (immortalised in the song title Trombone Cholly). We can get an impression of how Bessie must have appeared on stage from her performance in the short film St Louis Blues, made in 1929. Although several runs through this song occur in what is otherwise a simple drama, the centrepiece of the film is a fine performance of it by Bessie, giving some idea of the towering figure she must have cut behind the footlights of 1920s theatres.

Alcoholism and changing fashion damaged her career, but she enjoyed a brief renaissance in the 1930s, masterminded by entrepreneur John Hammond, before her death in 1937 after a motor accident in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where delays in getting her to hospital contributed to the tragedy of her demise at the age of forty-three.

Bessie Smith Biography (Wikipedia)

Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937) was an American blues singer. Nicknamed the Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on fellow blues singers, as well as jazz vocalists.

This entry is from Wikipedia, the user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors and is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons License. If you find the biography content factually incorrect or highly offensive you can edit this article at Wikipedia. Find out more about our use of this data.


Bessie Smith Tracks

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Bessie Smith
Down Hearted Blues
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Down Hearted Blues
Ida Cox
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
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Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
Jimmy Cox
Nobody knows when you're down and out
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Nobody knows when you're down and out
Bessie Smith
At the Christmas Ball
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At the Christmas Ball
Bessie Smith
Kitchen Man
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Kitchen Man
Bessie Smith
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
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Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
Bessie Smith
St. Louis Blues
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St. Louis Blues
Bessie Smith
T'ain't Nobodys Business If I Do
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T'ain't Nobodys Business If I Do
Bessie Smith
After You've Gone
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After You've Gone
Andy Razaf
On Revival Day
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On Revival Day
Bessie Smith
Me And My Gin
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Me And My Gin
Bessie Smith
Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
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Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
Bessie Smith
Back Water Blues
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Back Water Blues
Bessie Smith
Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair
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Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair
Bessie Smith
Moan, You Moaners
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Moan, You Moaners
Bessie Smith
A good man is hard to find
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A good man is hard to find
Bessie Smith
Empty Bed Blues Pt. 1
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Empty Bed Blues Pt. 1
Bessie Smith
St. Louis Blues
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St. Louis Blues
Bessie Smith
Yellow Dog Blues
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Yellow Dog Blues
Bessie Smith
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
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A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Bessie Smith
Careless Love
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Careless Love
Bessie Smith
Send Me To The 'lectric Chair
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Send Me To The 'lectric Chair
Bessie Smith
Gimme a Pigfoot
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Gimme a Pigfoot
Bessie Smith
Downhearted Blues
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Downhearted Blues
Bessie Smith
I'm Down In The Dumps
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I'm Down In The Dumps
Bessie Smith
Careless Love Blues
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Careless Love Blues
Bessie Smith
It Won't Be You
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It Won't Be You
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