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Bessie Smith

Biography

The first main blues and jazz singer on record and something of the very most powerful ever, Bessie Smith rightly earned the title of “The Empress from the Blues.” Also on her initial information in 1923, her passionate tone of voice overcame the primitive documenting quality of your day but still communicates conveniently to today’s listeners (that is incorrect of every other vocalist from that early period). At the same time once the blues had been in & most vocalists (especially vaudevillians) had been getting dubbed “blues performers,” Bessie Smith merely acquired no competition. Back 1912, Bessie Smith sang within the same present as Ma Rainey, who had taken her under her wing and coached her. Although Rainey would obtain a way of measuring popularity throughout her profession, she was shortly surpassed by her protégée. In 1920, Smith acquired her own present in Atlantic Town and, in 1923, she transferred to NY. She was shortly agreed upon by Columbia and her initial documenting (Alberta Hunter’s “Downhearted Blues”) produced her well-known. Bessie Smith proved helpful and recorded progressively throughout the 10 years, using many best music artists as sidemen on periods including Louis Armstrong, Joe Smith (her preferred cornetist), Adam P. Johnson, and Charlie Green. Her summertime tent present Harlem Frolics was a huge hit during 1925-1927, and Mississippi Times in 1928 held the momentum heading. Nevertheless, by 1929 the blues had been out of style and Bessie Smith’s profession was declining despite coming to the top of her power (but still just 35). She made an appearance in St. Louis Blues that season (a low-budget film short which has the only video footage of her), but her strike documenting of “No one Knows You IF YOU ARE Down and Out” forecasted her leaner Despair years. Although she was slipped by Columbia in 1931 and produced her last recordings on the four-song program in 1933, Bessie Smith continued working. She performed the Apollo in 1935 and substituted for Billie Visit to the display Celebrities Over Broadway. The probabilities are very great that she’d have enjoyed a resurgence, you start with a Carnegie Hall appearance at John Hammond’s upcoming From Spirituals to Golf swing concert, but she was wiped out in an automobile crash in Mississippi. Columbia offers reissued most of her recordings, 1st in five two-LP units and recently on five two-CD package units that also contain her five alternative requires, the soundtrack of St. Louis Blues, and an interview with her niece Ruby Smith. “The Empress from the Blues,” predicated on her recordings, won’t need to abdicate her throne.

Quick Facts


Full Name Bessie Smith
Died September 26, 1937, Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States
Height 1.75 m
Profession Actor, Singer
Nationality American
Spouse Jack Gee
Children Jack Gee Jr
Parents Laura Smith, William Smith
Siblings Clarence Smith, Lulu Smith, Andrew Smith, Tinnie Smith, Bud Smith, Viola Smith
Awards Grammy Hall of Fame, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Music Songs Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, St. Louis Blues, Down Hearted Blues, Careless Love Blues, Baby Won't You Please Come Home, T'Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do, After You've Gone, I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl, Gimme a Pigfoot, Empty Bed Blues, Black Water Blues, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, I'm Wild About That Thing, Gulf Coast Blues, The Gin House Blues, Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Me and My Gin, Young Woman's Blues, I Ain't Goin' to Play No Second Fiddle, There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight, Reckless Blues, Black Mountain Blues, Kitchen Man, Put It Right Here, Devil's Gonna Get You, The Yellow Dog Blues, Take Me for a Buggy Ride, Graveyard Dream Blues, Trombone Cholly, Thinking Blues, Outside of That
Albums The Complete Recordings, Vol. 4, The Complete Recordings, Vol. 5: The Final Chapter, The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3, Classic Recordings, Me And My Gin, Bessie Smith Selected Favorites, Vol. 11, Preachin' The Blues, Blues (Definitive Transcriptions), Bessie Smith Sings The Blues Vol 2, Empress Of The Blues Volume 2: 1926-1933 (CD D, Extra Cuts), Bessie Smith Selected Favorites, Vol. 7, Bessie Smith Selected Favorites, Vol. 9, The Complete Recordings of Bessie Smith, Vol. 4, The Bessie Smith Collection 1923-33, The Complete Recordings of Bessie Smith, Vol. 2, Backwater Blues, Vol. 5, Chicago Bound Blues Vol 3, Jazz Figures / Bessie Smith, Volume 1 (1923-1931), Immortal Masterpieces, Vol. 1, Slow And Easy, Masterpieces Presents Bessie Smith: 20 Greatest Blues Hits, Early Blues Singer (Classic Mood Experience), Empress Of The Blues Volume 2: 1926-1933 (CD A, 1926-1928), Restoration Lab, Vol. 1 (Best Masterpieces), The Complete Recordings of Bessie Smith, Vol. 1, Gulf Coast Blues, La vie de Bessie Smith (Mono Version), Golden Artists of the USA, Vol. 18, Empres Oh The Blues, Empress Of The Blues Volume 2: 1926-1933 (CD B, 1928-1929), The Blues - The Collection, Restoration Lab, Vol. 4 (Best Masterpieces), Bessie Smith Selected Favorites, Vol. 1, Bessie Smith Sings The Blues Vol 1, Restoration Lab, Vol. 3, Midnight Blues - The Complete Recordings 1923 - 1931, The Blues Collection Vol. 1, Queen Of Blues, Bessie Smith Live In Concert, The Essential Bessie Smith, Bessie Smith Sings More Blues, Sings the Blues, I Want Every Bit of It, Bessie's Blues, Standin' In The Rain, Best of Bessie Smith, The Collection, Those Happy Days At Home, Bessie Smith: Volume 1, Bessie Smith Selected Favorites Volume 3, Hot Classic Blues, Vol. 2 (Recordings Remastered), Jazz Heroes - Bessie Smith
Movies St. Louis Blues


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Soundtrack

Soundtrack

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill 2016 TV Movie writer: "Baby Doll" - as Smith
Gas Light 2016 performer: "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "Baby Won't You Please Come Home"
Bessie 2015 TV Movie performer: "Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer" / writer: "Young Woman's Blues", "Long Old Road"
The Originals 2015 TV Series performer - 1 episode
A Good Man 2014/I Short performer: "A Good Man is Hard to Find" / writer: "A Good Man is Hard to Find"
Boardwalk Empire 2012 TV Series 1 episode
The Hour 2011 TV Series writer - 1 episode
Water for Elephants 2011 performer: "I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl"
Nights in Rodanthe 2008 writer: "Backwater Blues"
Idlewild 2006 performer: "Do Your Duty"
Cold Case 2005 TV Series performer - 1 episode
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 2004 performer: "About Her"
Carnivàle TV Series performer - 1 episode, 2003 writer - 1 episode, 2003
The Blues TV Series documentary writer - 1 episode, 2003 performer - 1 episode, 2003
History Lessons 2000 Documentary performer: "Soft Pedal Blues" - uncredited / writer: "Soft Pedal Blues" - uncredited
Bluesland: A Portrait in American Music 1993 Documentary performer: "St. Louis Blues"
The Butcher's Wife 1991 performer: "T'AINT NOBODY'S BIZNESS IF I DO"
Die Schauspielerin 1988 performer: "NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU'RE DOWN AND OUT"
Angel Heart 1987 performer: "Honeymoon Blues"
'Round Midnight 1986 writer: "Put It Right Here"
Rich and Famous 1981 performer: "Take Me for a Buggy Ride"
Carbon Copy 1981 performer: "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out"
Lucky Lady 1975 performer: "Empty Bed Blues", "A Hot Time in the Old Town"
Sanford and Son 1975 TV Series performer - 1 episode
Brother Can You Spare a Dime 1975 Documentary performer: "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" 1923
Sing Sing Thanksgiving 1974 Documentary performer: "Sing Sing Prison Blues"
St. Louis Blues 1929 Short performer: "St. Louis Blues"

Actress

Actress

TitleYearStatusCharacter
St. Louis Blues 1929 Short Bessie - Battered Wife

Self

Self

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Jazz 2001 TV Mini-Series documentary Herself

Archive Footage

Archive Footage

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Soul Power! 2013 TV Series documentary Herself
Jazz Britannia 2005 TV Series documentary Herself
The Blues 2003 TV Series documentary Herself
Great Performances 2003 TV Series Herself
It's Black Entertainment 2002 TV Special documentary Herself
Blues Odyssey 2001 TV Movie documentary Herself
A Huey P. Newton Story 2001 TV Movie documentary Herself (uncredited)
Blues Masters 1999 Video documentary
The Century: America's Time 1999 TV Mini-Series documentary Herself
Bluesland: A Portrait in American Music 1993 Documentary Herself - Performer
Arena 1993 TV Series documentary Herself
That's Black Entertainment 1990 Documentary Herself
The Ladies Sing the Blues 1989 Herself
Brown Sugar 1986 TV Mini-Series documentary Herself
Before Stonewall 1984 Documentary Herself - standing at bar of speakeasy (uncredited)
All You Need Is Love 1977 TV Series documentary Herself
Sanford and Son 1975 TV Series Herself
Black Music in America: From Then Till Now 1971 Documentary short Herself
...And Beautiful II 1970 TV Movie Herself
Bessie Smith 1969 Short documentary Herself

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