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Bessie Smith: “Empress of The Blues”
Before Billie Holiday would sing the blues. She would be inspired by Bessie Smith. Bessie Smith, who went from a poor little black girl in Chattanooga TN. to become known as “The Empress of the Blues“ throughout the world. The exact date of Bessie Smith’s birth is debatable because of the US Census. It is reported that she could have been born on July 9, 1892 or April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, TN. The exact date and time of her death is recorded as 11:50 a.m. on Highway 61 Clarksdale, MS on September 26, 1937. In this paper we will discuss her personal life, her triumphs, her tragic death and those she inspired..
Bessie Smith was born the youngest of seven kids to a minister in the Deep South. Both her parents had died before she had reached the tender age of nine. She was a loud, rough, crude, violent, and angry black woman who stood over six feet tall as an adult and weighed over two hundred pounds.. She went through two marriages, many lovers(male and female) and was considered an alcoholic in her adult years. During good times and the Great Depression Bessie Smith was “The Empress of the Blues.”
Bessie started performing at an early age with her brother Andrew to earn money for her impoverish family. She would dance and sing on the corner of 13th and Elm street at the White Elephant Saloon with her brother Andrew. Andrew would play guitar while Bessie performed. She got her break in Chattanooga TN. in 1912 when her oldest brother Clarence asked the company that he worked for to give Bessie an audition. She was hired
to the Stoke’s Troupe as a dancer because Ma Rainey was the lead singer during this time. Bessie worked her way up to the chorus line. She left Stoke’s Troupe and joined Irving C. Miller’s tent show in the middle part of 1912. Six months later it was rumored that she was asked to leave the Miller’s show because her skin was too dark.
In 1913 Bessie had started performing at 81...
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