Mamie Smith is significant by being the first to make a blues record, which paved way for other blues artists and increased the popularity of race records.
The blues is a genre of music that originated in the south, expressing experiences, feelings, and emotions. In this genre, there is a primary voice, the singer and a secondary voice, the instrument. It is characterized by a twelve bar AAB fashion where A is a repeated line of verse with B amplifying it. Riffs, or short rhythmic-melodic phrases, are used within these verses to support or extend the primary and secondary voices.
Mamie Smith is a blues singer born on May 26, 1891. In her adolescence, she began touring with minstrel shows. Later, she settled in New York City where she recorded, “Crazy Blues” on August 10, 1920. In less than a year, a million copies were sold, spiking the interest of the African-American audience and increasing the popularity of race records.
Due to her success, Smith began touring Europe and the United States performing hits such as “Fare Thee Honey Blues,” “Royal Garden Blues,” “Lonesome Mama Blues,” and “You Can Have Him, I Don’t Want Him Blues.” After her retirement in 1931, she began appearing in films such as Paradise in Harlem, Murder in Lenox Avenue, and Because I love You.
Smith is noted as the first African American to make a blues record. She paved way for future blues artists, such as Bessie Smith, and created an environment for black music to be heard. Her efforts produced race records for black listeners through the diversification of the blues genre.