Bessie Smith

"Empress of the Blues"


Though she had sung on the streets accompanied by one of her brothers to collect money for her family after both parents had died, Bessie Smith became known after singing with the famous jazz singer "Ma Rainey". She also participated in multiple traveling groups, which also helped her rise to fame. Smith sang blues, jazz, and gospel. She is said to have pioneered the genre of soul music.

Bessie Smith suffered from depression and a drug and alcohol addiction,however she kept singing through her problems.

Smith's Birth

Sunday, April 15th 1894 at 12am to Wednesday, April 18th 2018 at 2am

Chattanooga, TN, United States

Chattanooga, TN

Smith was born to a minister and his wife, along with 6 other children. Her father died not long after she was born, and her mother and two of her brothers died in 1906, leaving Bessie's aunt to tend to the children.

Bessie Smith's Death

Sunday, Sep. 26th 1937 at 12am

Clarksdale, MS, United States

Clarksdale, MS

Bessie Smith's death was a sad one, due to the fact that it could have been prevented. She was fatally injured in a car crash, but on the way to the hospital they passed a white hospital which could have saved her. However, she was not admitted there so they had to travel even farther to a black hospital. By the time they reached it, Bessie Smith had already died.

Aretha Franklin

Rough Lover by Aretha Franklin
Bessie Smith (Down Hearted Blues, 1923) Jazz Legend

Down Hearted Blues

After being discovered by Columbia Studios, Bessie Smith recorded several songs, among which was this song, "Down Hearted Blues". The song was extremely popular, and in effect sold 800,000 copies. This song is said to be her most significant song due to its popularity. This song is probably the reason that we are studying her today.
Click for a collection of Bessie Smith's music

Can't get enough? Click above for a plethora of Smith's most popular tunes.