Bessie Smith

American Blues Singer


Bessie was born in Tennessee on April 15, 1984. She was born to a family of 6, a mother, father, three half brothers, and a sister. Sadly, soon after she was born, her father passed away. She couldn't even remember him. To make matters worse, a couple years later her mother and one of her brothers died as well. Now, her sister was taking care of her. This scarring childhood left her only one escape, music.

Music Career

Bessie first began performing when she and her brother sung together in the city. Many years later, her other brother got her in contact with some producers. They did give her a job, but as a dancer. As time went along, she was given the opportunity to sing backup. She performed like that for many years, until she was discovered. She then signed with Columbia Record, not knowing that one day she would be a huge star.

Music by Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith (Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out, 1929) Jazz Legend
This song by Bessie Smith, is titled ¨Nobody Knows when You're Down and Out¨. It was recorded in 1923, but was not released to the public until 1927. This piece is significant because, in the song she sings about herself being a crow. This was written to oppose the Jim Crow laws, that had been written years earlier.

American Culture Significance

Bessie has really affected the American Culture. Her soulful and amazing talents inspired people then, and even now. Famous artists, such as Janice Joplin and Norah Jones, have credited her as one of their musical inspirations. Her name will never be forgotten because of the stamp she has put on our country. She will always be a musical influence for many generations to come.

Bessie Smith compared to John Legend

Bessie and John Legend have many similarities in their music, and styles. They are both blues and soul singers. In all of their songs, they tell a story and really get a message across. They both really have a amazing voice and character, and I can really see the similaries between them. Below I have a video of John Legend singing, so you can listen.
John Legend Performs

Fun Facts!

  • Bessie was known as the ¨Empress of the Blues¨
  • Bessie released 160 songs in her lifetime
  • Bessie was married to a man named Jack Gee, but they divorced soon after their marrige.