Empress of the Blues
Biography of Bessie Smith
She met Ma Rainey while performing as a dancer and took her under her wing. She later lived in Philadelphia in 1923 and married a man named Jack Gee. She was discovered by a representative of Columbia Records, Clarence Williams. She signed a contract to make recordings, her song "Downhearted Blues," was very popular and sold about 800,000 copies. This sent her into the blues spotlight. By the end of the 1920s Smith was crowned "Empress of the blues."
The depression took a toll on Smith's career. Her and Jack Gee were separated in 1929, she was battling liquor at the time, and in 1931 she stopped working at Columbia. She still went on tour, she was contacted by John Hammond, a producer, to make new recordings. Smith still performed, sadly however on Spetember 26, 1937 Smith was on her way to Memphis, Tenessee to perform when the car crashed and she was thrown from the vehicle. She died when she was 43 and thousands came to her funeral to pay their respects.