Bessie Smith and the Blues

the Blues originated in Mississippi in the 1920s shortly after the ending of Ragtime. Although it was a male-dominated industry, where Black men sang about the struggles of being Black in American society, the western music industry quickly took over and created iconic music. That also goes for one of the well-known Blues singers, Bessie Smith. She is one of the founding artists of Blues music and created an amazing impact on the genre overall, which led to her title, “The Empress of Blues”. 

Bessie Smith

Bessie smith was a talented and well-known Blues musicians from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her challenging upbringing was what mostly ignited her passion as a singer. In her music, she talked about the woes of women, including domestic violence and fighting back. There was often a choir in her performances, which can support the fact that the Blues were influenced by Gospel music. Within Smith’s early career, she was recognized and influenced by popular Black artists back then, including Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, and others. 

Ma Rainey helped Bessie learn about the way of the industry and they toured several shows together. After that, she recorded her first two songs named “Down Hearted-Blues” and “Gulf Coast Blues”, which led to her becoming a lot more popular as a talented singer. 

In 1923, Smith signed with Columbia Records, and they released “race records”, whereas songs by Black artists were targeting Black audiences. Later in her career, she became the highest-paid Black performer in America during that period after being paid approximately $2,000 a week for performances and theaters requesting additional nights from her. That achievement came after working with one of the most prominent artists during that time, which was Louis Armstrong. 

Although Bessie Smith inevitably received criticism since the message of her music was about working-class women and independence, she still prospered in her career during the 1920s and 30s. Her talented voice through the rhythm, timbre, background instrumentals, and stage presence led to her being a top Blues artist in the music industry. her life was so influential that there are films made about her today. The 2015 movie starring Queen Latifah, the movie was about the life of Bessie Smith titled Bessie. Even though Bessie smith died at a young age of 43, she created a long lasting impact on the Blues genre. 

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