Bessie Smith

Cassandra Nanninga


Bessie Smith, born April 15, 1894, grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee in destitution. She would sing on the street for money. Bessie soon later, though grew to be a well known Blues and Jazz artist. She is known for being "The Empress of the Blues." Her songs would draw people in, with her vocal tones and emotion. The songs expressed what Bessie was feeling. The people listening to the music could feel the intense pull on their emotions with hers, almost as if their emotions were linked with hers. Bessie was first hired as a dancer, but along with the dancing her singing improved and soon she was adding comedy too. Bessie was mentored by Ma Rainey and developed some of "Ma's" style and morphed it into her own. She married Jack Gee, and adopted a son and named him Jack Gee Jr. Jack and Bessie didn't get along very well in the end. Their arguments ended up in fights and soon they ended their marriage. Jack tried to keep their son away from Bessie for many years by moving to different homes around the United States, this resulted in Bessie becoming depressed and an alcoholic. Bessie's career and life ended on September 26, 1937 in a car wreck.


Bessie Smith - Mini Bio
Question to the video:

1. Why did Bessie Smith have her own railroad car?

2. Which record company discovered Bessie Smith?