Elizabeth “Bessie” Smith, born April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, died 26 September 1937 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, was an American singer, one of the great jazz and blues singers.
Even at age 13, she went on tour with another great blues singer, Ma Rainey. She began recording discs in 1923 and was for the rest of the decade, a big seller for the company Columbia for which she did all of her recordings (her last recordings from 1933 were released by the label Okeh, but it was owned by Columbia). She appeared on film in 1929 in St. Louis Blues.
If you want to write a good research paper on the topic you have to know that Bessie Smith sang a dramatic, deeply melancholic form of the blues and was called The Empress of the Blues. During the depression her popularity decreased. Bessie Smith died after an auto accident. By some accounts, she bled to death when they refused to take her to a hospital only for whites. This version has been questioned by several other sources who claim that she bled to death already on his way to the hospital.
Smith has remained a big blue icon and served as a model not only for blues singers like Billie Holiday, but also for female singers in completely different genres such as Kajsa Dawned.
The tragic death in 1959 prompted Edward Albee to the one-act play The Death of Bessie Smith, in which the variant is expressed that access to a clinic for whites was forbidden for the dying singer. Bernard Malamud quoted in “The Tenants” on the cover page of his novel: “I got to make it, I got to find the end…”
The singer Janis Joplin, a great admirer of Bessie Smith wanted visit her grave in 1970 and discovered alleged that her idol had been buried anonymously.
Thereupon Joplin put a grave stone for the deceased, which bears the inscription: “The greatest blues singer in the world will never cease to sing – Bessie Smith – 1894-1937.” According to other sources, a nurse from Philadelphia paid the half of the costs with Joplin and after she had asked her to pay, the other half.
Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson of The Band publish along with Bob Dylan on the album The Basement Tapes, recorded in 1967 in the basement of the legendary Big Pink, a song called “Bessie Smith.” Norah Jonescoverte sings this song at her concerts.
Life and Death of Bessie Smith are the subject of the jazz opera Cosmopolitan Greetings by Allen Ginsberg (libretto), George Gruntz (jazz) and Rolf Liebermann (twelve-tone), premiered in 1988 in Hamburg.
The accompanying Album The World’s Greatest Blues Singer, a compilation of her best known titles, in 1971 received a Grammy.
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