The Wonderful Bessie Smith

Smith was born on April 15, 1894, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She was one of seven children. Her father was a Baptist minister but died after her birth, making her mother raise her and her siblings alone. In 1906 her mother and two of her brothers died and Smith and her remaining siblings were raised by their aunt. After that Smith began to perform as a street singer, with one of her brothers playing the guitar. In 1912 Smith began performing in the Moses Stokes minstrel show, and thereafter in the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, where blues vocalist Ma Rainey was a member. Rainey took Smith under her wing, and helped her tremendously. Bessie Smith was a very popular Black blues singer who started singing at a young age. In 1923 she signed with Columbia Records and her career begin. Soon she was one of the highest-paid Black performers of her time with songs such as “Downhearted Blues.” By the end of the 1920s, her popularity was not as high as when she initially signed although she continued to perform and made new recordings at the start of the Swing Era. Her comeback and life were cut short when she died on September 26, 1937, from injuries from a car accident by Clarksdale, Mississippi. 

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