Ma Rainey 1886-1939

Ma Rainey, the "Mother of Blues"

Ma Rainey was a Blues singer who was active from the years 1899-1939. She was a prominent figure amongst the Black music industry as she was known as “The Mother of Blues”. Ma Rainey’s voice carried a unique and deep tone. Her music was thought of as soulful to many people.

Why was Ma Rainey so influential?

Ma Rainey’s music was influential because she was one of the first female Blues artists to discuss women’s sexuality and personal life. Ma Rainey’s music explored topics that dealt with the pain, pleasure, romance, anger, etc. of Black women. Rainey’s songs reached bisexual audiences, as she herself was openly bisexual and sang lyrics that told stories of her experiences with other women. Ma Rainey’s approach to Blues was unconventional to many, but also appreciated for its authenticity. Her style of music was also influential for combining the traditions of vaudeville and authentic Southern blues.

Women like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Mamie Smith presented real stories and feelings through their songs without shame and need to cater to White audiences- unlike ragtime music. Ma Rainey’s performances  reflected awareness of the Black body and consciousness, as she often used her body to create sexual motions, thus making her music have more of a sex appeal.  Ma Rainey’s music was overall relatable for Black people. As upcoming Black artist paved their way into the industry, Ma Rainey suggested an emphasis the exploration of one’s true self. 

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