Who is Mamie Smith

Mamie Smith and the Blues

Mamie Smith (Robinson)

A woman born in 1891 in Cincinnati, Ohio was successfully able to completely change music we know today as blues. But why was she so influential, and who is Mamie Smith?


Watch these for a bit of background into the blues

Mamie Smith (1883-1946) was the first African-American female performer to make a vocal blues recording in 1920 with "Crazy Blues". The song was written by Perry Bradford and it was recorded on August 10, 1920, by Mamie Smith and Her Jazz Hounds.

The history of blues begins in the south during the later years of the slave period, where work songs and negro spirituals were much of the roots of this music. However unlike other music, the blues mainly follows a specific chord progression and syncopation which most other music doesn’t. The tones of sorrow and pain which flow throughout the music set it apart from others. And with the rhythm of Blues inspired the birth of Jazz music. 

Although the spirit of blues has been around since the 19th century, the music began to gain its popularity in the 1920’s. Much of which was sparked by the infamous Mamie Smith. 

Mamie Smith, born Mamie Robinson, lived in Ohio for her childhood. After a few year in performance and theater, she made her way to music. In February of 1920, she recorded two songs “That thing called love” and “You can’t keep a good man down”, which were the first blues record ever recorded by a black singer, however the backing musicians were all white which received extreme backlash. She later, in August, went on to record “Crazy Blues” and “It’s right here for you” which went on to sell a million copies in under a year. 

The popularity of this record shifted the culture of music entirely. Labels realized the value in black artist and music. This opened an avenue for black musicians in differing genres, specifically Hip Hop and Rap which derives directly from the tunes of sorrow and pain in blues music. 

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