Bessie Smith

By: Makenzie Rosol

Bessie Smith's Earlier Life

Bessie Smith was recorded to be in the 1900 census of July 1982 but it was shown that in the 1910 census her birthday was April 15th, 1984. She was the daughter of Laura and William Smith. Her father was known as a laborer and part-time Baptist Preacher. He supposedly died before Bessie could remember him and by the time she was nine, Bessie had lost her mother and brother also. Her older sister Viola took over in caring for Bessie and her siblings.

How Bessie Smith Started Out

Bessie Smith didn't start her career off in the studio. Bessie and her older brother Clarence made money on the streets by busking as a duo: Bessie singing and dancing and Clarence accompanying her with the guitar. Her brother left in 1904 to join a small traveling troupe but then in returned in 1912 and arranged for Bessie to get an audition. She was hired as a dancer rather than a singer, but then moved on to different chorus lines, making the "81" Theater in Atlanta her home base.

Bessie Smith's Career

In 1923, Bessie started her recording career. She fell madly in love with Jack Gee, a security guard and the married on June 7th, 1923, just after her first record had been released. Bessie Smith became the highest paid black entertainer of the day, heading her own shows and touring in her own railroad car. Smith found out her husband Jack had cheated on her with another singer and ended their relationship, although they never did actually divorce. Eventually she found a different husband and stayed with him until her death on September 26th, 1937. Bessie Smith died in an automobile accident from severe injuries. Bessie Smith will always be remembered as the "Empress of Blues"
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Bessie Smith - Mini Bio