Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith Early Life

Bessie Smith was one of the most powerful and influential Blues singer that the word has ever seen. Bessie Smith was born on April 15th, 1894. Her full name was Elizabeth Smith and she was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She was one of seven children and her parents along with some her siblings died when she was really young. She had to live with her aunt and her aunt saw that she was an amazing singer so she would have Bessie perform on the sidewalk. She would sing while her brothers would play the guitar alongside of her. In 1912, Smith got her debut to perform in the Moses Strokes minstrel show. She eventually joined another minstrel show where she met Ma Rainey, and Rainey took Bessie under her wing and began to help her.

Bessie Smith in Blues Music

Some of the most powerful women sang blues music and Bessie Smith was amongst those powerful women. The Blues was sang for black people, it was black music and they mostly sang about sex, sadness and their feelings.  The way that Bessie Smith sang made people feel some type of way and they were truly moved by her voice and the words she sang.

Bessie Smith was such an amazing Blues musician that she was named the Empress of Blues. Smith was the most popular woman Blues musician during the 1920s and the 1930s. Some people would even consider her to be the best from her era. Many people would come from all over and just to see her sing. Since so many people all over the world came to sing, Smith got paid $2,000 a week for her live performances and soon became one of the highest paid Black performers of her era. Something different that she did was that sometimes during her performances, she sang with a choir. That had never been done before and had only been seen done in church.

The way that she sang her songs, people could truly feel the emotions behind every single word that she sang. Some people didn’t like her because she “upset” you but others really enjoyed the way she sung and the lyrics she sung because she talked about real-world things that were happening. She was different than what people were used to and that is why people enjoyed listening to her music and seeing her live.

Personal Life

Bessie Smith had a hard life behind the scenes. She had financial problems and nobody wanted to book her. In 1923, Smith married a man named James Gee and they had a rocky marriage, but later her and her husband split up. He tried to get full custody of their son. After they divorced she married her close friend Richard Morgan and they stayed together until she died. 

After her Death

Bessie Smith died 1937 in a car accident. Even though her career was tragically cut short, her career influenced many people including the great artist like Aretha Franklin and Billie Holliday. Although she is not as popular in todays time, her music and her soulful and powerful voice still influences others and continues to reach others from my generation. Also since Bessie’s death she had been inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame for her hit song “Downhearted Blues” with Louis Armstrong and also for her song “Empty Bed Blues”. She also earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989.

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