Bessie was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on the 15th of April 1894 she was an America blues singer known as the Empress of the Blues and was the most popular female blues singer in the 1920's and 1930's.
It was September 26, 1937 when Bessie passed away in Clarksdale, Mississippi from injuries sustained in a car accident. She was buried Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Keil-336 13:44, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
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There's a bit of controversy/confusion regarding Bessie's birth date. Per the 1900 US Census, she was born July 1892. Per the 1910 US Census, her age is 16 (b. ~1894). According to the Wikipedia article, the birth date of 15 Apr 1894 is used on subsequent documents and was the date observed by her family. It is this date that is currently used in her WikiTree and Wikipedia profiles. The birth date in the tombstone at her grave per FindAGrave has birth year 1895.
From the 1900 US Census:
From the 1910 US Census:
According to the 1900 census Bessie Smith was born on 15 April 1894 in Chattanooga and according to the 1910 census she is aged 16 . She was the daughter of Laura and William Smith who was a part-time Baptist preacher but died whilst his daughter was young , When Bessie was nine ,her mother and brother had passed away leading to her sister Viola taking care of her siblings and Bessie never had any education .
Because of her parents death and her poverty she had an awful childhood and to help out with the money Bessie and Andrew her brother started street singing in Chattanooga and she sang and he played the guitar on Street corners for little money there usual place was by the White Elephant Saloon in the centre of the Africa-America community,
Her elder brother Clarence left home in 1904 joining a small troupe owned by Moses Stokes and Bessie would have gone wih him but she was to young.
Clarence returned with the troupe and arranged an audition for Bessie singing with the troupe managers who hired her as a dancer because they already had the popular singer Ma Rainey i the troupe who helped Bessie to develop a stage presence and Smith moved on to performing in chorus lines with the 81 Theatre as her base. She formed her own act in 1913 at the '81' theatre and had established a reputation by 1920 especially in the South and East Coast a record by Mamie Smith called Crazy Blues had established a new market and led to search for female blues singers. Bessie capitalized on this market and begun her recording career in 1923 when she signed for Columbia Records and her first session was on 15 February 1923 which was engineered by Dan Hornsby the first record issued was Cemetery Blues' 26 September 1923 and then Downhearted Blues/ Gulf Coast Blues .
Her popularity increased and she became a headliner on the Theatre Booking Association circuit and became its top attraction in the 1920's and became the highest paid black entertainer of the time she travelled in her own 72-foot long railroad car and she was nicknames Queen of the Blues but the press upgraded this ti Empress of the Blues her music stressed independence, Fearlessness and sexual freedom . But even so her music was not accepted in certain quarters as she was regarded as to rough but despite this she became the most successful diva because of this style even rougher thn Mamie Smith. She had a strong contralto voice which recorded well and was even better at the event of electrical recording which made her singing more evident. Her first electrical record was Cake Walking Babies recorded 5 May 1925 and she took advantage of the radio broadcasting which had just started up and was well received by the listeners. In all she made 160 recordings for the Columbia Label and played with the top musicians of the day including Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Fletcher Henderson, James P Johnson, Joe Smith and Charlie Green. And a number of her recordings like Alexanders Ragtime Band with the Dorsey Brother's in 1927 became on of the best sellin records.
Bessie's career was cut short by the Depression which almost put the industry out of business and with the start up of the film ended Vaudeville but despite this she kept on performing and touring sometimes singing in clubs and appeared in a Broadway musical in 1929 called Pansy although it flopped the critics said she was its only asset. In November 1929 she made her one film appearance in a two-reeler , St Louis Blues which was based on the song by W. C. Handy's of the same name and she sang this song with the Fletcher Henderson orchestra and the Hall Johnson Choir.
In 1933 John Henry Hammond who also advised Billie Holiday recorded four tracks with Bessie for Okeh which had been acquired by Columbia in 1925 allegedly she was working as a hostess in a speakeasy on Ridge Avenue in semi-obscurity which wasn't correct although she did work at Art's Cafe but not as a hostess. She was still touring when she cut the Okeh sides . She received $37.50 for each selection on what her last recordings and they shifted her artistry from blues to swing.
On 26th of September 1937 she was badly injured in a car crash on U.S, Route 61 between Memphis and Clarksdale her lover Richard Morgan who was driving misjudged the speed of a slow moving truck and hit the vehicle's side at high speed and the truck's tailgate sheared off the wooden roof of her old Packard vehicle and she took the full impact though Morgan escaped without injuries.
She was taken to the G.T. Thomas afro-American Hospital in Clarksdale where her right was amputated but she died that morning without gaining consciousness And her body was moved to O.V. Elks Lodge where an estimated 10,000 mourners filed past her coffin on Sunday the 3rd of October . Her funeral was held in Philadelphia and attended by seven thousand people and she was buried at Mount Lawn Cemetery in Sharon Hill ,her grave remained unmarked until a tombstone was erected on 7 August 1970 by the singer Janis Joplin and Juanita Green ,
1. The Complete Recordings in 1993
2. Wasted Life Blues in 2006
3. Careless Love Blues in 2013
4. Classic Recordings in 2008
Also 1951. The Bessie Smith Story Volume 4
2010. The Blues Biography
1923. Midnight Blues / Bleeding Hearted Blues
1923. Jail-House Blues / Graveyard Blues
1923. Down Hearted Blues / Gulf Coast Blues
1923. Baby Won't you please come back Home Blues / Oh Daddy Blues
1923. Far Away Blues / I'm Going Back to my Used To Be in
1923. Lady-Luck Blues / Yodling Blues
1923. Whoa, Tillie, Take Your Time / My Sweetie Went Away
1923 Mama Got The Blues / Outside Of That Columbia A3900
1923, Chicago Bound Blues / Mistreating Daddy -Columbia1400-D
1923. If You Don't I Know Who Will / Nobody in Town Can Bake A Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine- Columbia A3942
1923. St. Louis Gal / Sam Jones Blues-Columbia 13005D
1923. Taint Nobody's Biz-Ness If I Do / Keeps On A Raining-Columbia A3898
1924. Dying Gambler's Blues / Sing Sing Prison Blues-Columbia
1924. The Bye Bye Blues / Weeping Willow Blues-Columbia
1924. Salt Water Blues / Rainy Weather Blues- Columbia 14037-D
1924. Frankie Blues / Hateful Blues-Columbia 14020-D
1924. Sorrowful Blues / Rocking Chair Blues-Columbia 14010-D
1924, Haunted House Blues / Evesdropper's Blues-Columbia 1408-D
1924. Pinchbacks-Take Em Away / Window Down-Columbia 14025-D
1924. Lou'siana Low-Down Blues / Mountain Top Blues-Columbia 14031-D
1924. Work House Blues / House Rent Blues-Columbia 14032-D
Plus around 250 more recordings
1. W. m.wikipedia.org>wiki>Bessie_Smith
2. www.npr.org Forebears|: Bessie Smith, The Empress of the Blues
3. www.npr.org How Bessie Smith Influenced a Century of Popular Music
4. www.britannica.com>biography Bessie Smith/Biography .Songs, Music, Death and Facts
5. www.biography.com>musician Bessie Smith-Songs, Death and Facts Biography
6. www.theguardian.com> Jackie Kay on Bessie Smith:
7. www.undiscoveredmusic.com Bessie Smith: The Legendary Empress of The Blues
8. www.rockhall.com>inductees Bessie Smith/ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 9. open.spotify.com>artist Bessie Smith/Spotify
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