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Bessie Smith

Subject: Music

(1895–1937) Black US blues singer. Known as the ‘Empress of the Blues’, this tall handsome woman created a style that was followed by many jazz singers, including Louis Armstrong ...

Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie (1894–1937)   Reference library

The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2002
Subject:
Literature
Length:
303 words

...For Amiri Baraka 's Clay (from Dutchman , 1964 ), Bessie Smith is the quintessential wearer of the mask, saying “Kiss my ass, kiss my black unruly ass.” According to Clay, “If Bessie Smith had killed some white people she wouldn't have needed that music.” In contrast, the Smith of Sherley Anne Williams 's “Someone Sweet Angel Chile” emerges as a woman who triumphs through her ability to make music and sing the song of her own personal life as well as the collective song of black people. Recently, Smith has been identified by African American feminist...

Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie (15 April 1894)   Reference library

Paul Oliver and Chris Albertson

The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2013
Subject:
Music, Social sciences, Regional and Area Studies
Length:
812 words

...F. Martin : Bessie Smith (Paris, 1994) A.Y. Davis : Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (New York, 1998) [incl. the 160 lyrics Smith recorded] S. Grimes : Backwater Blues: in Search of Bessie Smith (Amherst, MA, 2000) M.R. Scott : The Realm of a Blues Empress: Blues Culture and Bessie Smith in Black Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1880–1923 (diss., Cornell U., 2002) C. Albertson : Bessie (New Haven, CT, 2003) D. Evans : “Bessie Smith's Backwater Blues : the Story behind the Song,” Popular Music , xxvi/1 (2007), 97–116 A. Sagee : “Bessie Smith: Down Hearted...

Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie   Reference library

Melanie E. Bratcher

The Oxford Encyclopedia Women in World History

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2008
Subject:
History
Length:
635 words

..., Bessie ( 1894–1937 ), American singer called the “Empress of the Blues.” Bessie Smith was born on 15 April 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and died on 26 September 1937 , in an automobile accident near Memphis, Tennessee. In the context of “slave codes,” “black codes,” and Jim Crow laws, her life proved to be a tapestry of defiance, violence, pleasure, heartache, and uncharted paths. The textures of Smith's experiences were ubiquitously resounded as rough, fiery, loud, and bumpy vocal expressions. Born to William and Laura Smith , Bessie was one...

Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie (1895–1937)   Quick reference

Who's Who in the Twentieth Century

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2003
Subject:
History
Length:
232 words

..., Bessie ( 1895–1937 ) Black US blues singer. Known as the ‘Empress of the Blues’, this tall handsome woman created a style that was followed by many jazz singers, including Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday . Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she came from a very poor family. As a child she began her singing career, in which she was supported by another black singer, Ma Rainey ( 1886–1939 ). She started touring with Ma Rainey's Rabbit Foot Minstrels in about 1912 . Even though the troupe was successful, Bessie Smith was ignored by record companies...

Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie (15 April 1892?)   Reference library

Black Women in America (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
History, Regional and National History
Length:
3,562 words
Illustration(s):
1

...life. By the 1890s Bessie had joined her parents and six elder siblings in a crowded shack dwelling in the poverty-stricken Blue Goose Hollow region of Chattanooga. According to prominent biographical studies of Bessie Smith, including Chris Albertson ’s Bessie and Carman Moore ’s Somebody’s Angel Child , William Smith was both a part-time, or lay, Baptist minister and a day laborer. Just as William Smith held the dual role of laborer and clergy worker to economically and spiritually support the Smith household, so too did Laura Smith hold the roles of...

Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie (b. 15 April 1894)   Reference library

Encyclopedia of African American History 1896 to the Present

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
History, Regional and National History
Length:
1,232 words

..., Bessie ( b. 15 April 1894 ; d. 26 September 1937 ), blues singer and composer . Since the release of her first recordings, Bessie Smith has been generally regarded as the best blues singer who ever lived. Americans, both black and white, had heard blues before Smith sang them, but never any like hers. Her voice, as rich and powerful as a church organ, as pliant as a cello, delivers all the pain, strength, and joy of the blues. She was billed as the Empress of the Blues, and her sound, at once stately and earthy, tells us why. Some of her contemporaries...

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith (18941937)   Reference library

Brewer's Famous Quotations

Reference type:
Quotation
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Quotations
Length:
25 words

...Bessie Smith 1894 1937 American blues singer Any Woman's Blues. Title of a song (?1929). Hence, title of a novel (1990) by Erica...

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith (1894–1937)   Reference library

The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Quotation
Current Version:
2008
Subject:
Quotations
Length:
28 words

...Bessie Smith 1894 – 1937 No time to marry, no time to settle down; I'm a young woman, and I ain't done runnin' around. Young Woman's Blues ,...

Death of Bessie Smith, The

Death of Bessie Smith, The (1960)   Quick reference

The Oxford Dictionary of Plays (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2015

...of Bessie Smith, The Author: Edward Albee Date/place of 1st performance: 1960 , Berlin; 1961 , New York Date of 1st publication: 1960 Genre: Drama in 8 scenes Setting/time of action: Hospital and other locations, Memphis, Tennessee, 1937 Cast: 5m, 2f Two stories alternate. In one, Jack, the black driver and friend of the blues singer Bessie Smith, is stopping with her in Memphis on their way north to a big engagement in New York. He drinks, and they have a crash, but are refused admission to the ironically named Mercy Hospital, because...

Smith Bessie

Smith Bessie   Reference library

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Music
Length:
970 words

...Bessie Smith Songbook , Bessie Smith . Hal Leonard (USA).1994. Bessie Smith And The Night Riders , Sue Stauffacher . Putnam Juvenile (USA).2006. See also Ma Rainey , Louis Armstrong , Joe Smith , St. Louis Blues , James P. Johnson , Fletcher Henderson , John Hammond, Jnr. , Jack Teagarden , Coleman Hawkins , Apollo , Lionel Hampton , Bessie Smith - Bessie Smith 1925-1933 , Bessie Smith - The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 , Bessie Smith - The Complete Recordings Vol. 2 , Bessie Smith - The Complete Recordings Vol. 3 , Bessie Smith - The...

Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie   Quick reference

Oxford Dictionary of English (3 ed.)

Reference type:
English Dictionary
Current Version:
2015
Subject:
English Dictionaries and Thesauri
Length:
34 words
Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie   Quick reference

New Oxford American Dictionary (3 ed.)

Reference type:
English Dictionary
Current Version:
2015
Subject:
English Dictionaries and Thesauri
Length:
60 words
Smith, Bessie

Smith, Bessie   Reference library

The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary

Reference type:
English Dictionary
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
English Dictionaries and Thesauri
Length:
50 words
Smith, Bessie - Bessie Smith 1925-1933

Smith, Bessie - Bessie Smith 1925-1933   Reference library

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Music
Length:
140 words

..., Bessie - Bessie Smith 1925-1933 The self-styled ‘Empress of the Blues’, Bessie Smith was the music’s first great female performer. On a series of chronological CDs released by the European reissue label Nimbus, nearly the complete oeuvre of this iconoclastic singer was made available. An enormous influence on nearly every blues and jazz singer to follow, Smith possessed inimitable phrasing that reshaped even familiar songs into startling new forms. Not to be overlooked are the enormously talented backing musicians featured here, including a young Louis...

Baker, LaVern - Sings Bessie Smith

Baker, LaVern - Sings Bessie Smith   Reference library

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Music
Length:
127 words

...LaVern - Sings Bessie Smith Something of an overlooked classic, Sings Bessie Smith probably seemed like a departure when it was recorded in 1958. LaVern Baker, after all, had made her reputation as a rock singer. This album was clearly intended for an older audience. In any case, the move works. Baker tackles songs made popular by 20s blues queen Smith, and makes them thoroughly her own. Fronting a band of serious jazz guys, including trumpeter Buck Clayton, Baker makes no attempt to mimic Bessie (although her sound is in the ballpark). Similarly, the...

Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith  

Reference type:
Overview Page
Subject:
Music
(1895–1937)Black US blues singer. Known as the ‘Empress of the Blues’, this tall handsome woman created a style that was followed by many jazz singers, including Louis Armstrong and Billie ...
Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 2

Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 2   Reference library

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Music
Length:
128 words

..., Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 2 In its most important and comprehensive blues reissue project since the label’s complete refurbishment of Robert Johnson’s recordings, Columbia Records unleashed the essential five-volume, 10-CD series Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings . The 20s recordings by the Empress of the Blues are justifiably legendary, as Smith was not only the first great female blues performer but also a strong influence on generations of blues and jazz singers. Smith’s backing musicians here include heavyweights like Louis Armstrong,...

Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 3

Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 3   Reference library

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Music
Length:
199 words

..., Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 3 Volume 3 of Columbia’s five-box, ten-CD set found Bessie Smith at the height of her career as a touring artist, recording consistently with high-calibre pianists like Fletcher Henderson and stride king James P. Johnson. While she was billed as ‘Empress of the Blues’, Smith’s accompanists handled her material in the small-group jazz style of the day, and her repertoire drew as much from Tin Pan Alley, novelty and the vaudeville stage as it did from hokum and 12-bar sources. There are many blues tunes here, but often...

Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 4

Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 4   Reference library

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Music
Length:
193 words

..., Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 4 By the late 20s, Bessie Smith’s recordings had become much more well-rounded musical experiences than her first sides, which were essentially vocal recitals with minimal piano accompaniment. Smith recorded a slew of piano/vocal duets in the fall of 1929 with James P. Johnson, one of the leading pianists working in the stride style, and the results have a flexibility and airiness that’s missing in some of her other recordings. On three particularly filthy tunes, ‘I’m Wild About That Thing’, ‘You’ve Got To Give Me...

Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 1

Smith, Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 1   Reference library

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Music
Length:
160 words

..., Bessie - The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 This five-box reissue, two CDs per box, was part of the same series as Columbia’s complete reissue of the Robert Johnson recordings. Volume 1’s extensive essay by Chris Albertson attempts to separate fact from fiction regarding Smith’s childhood and early recording years. The booklet features numerous photographs of Smith’s peers and associates, including singers like Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith, and pianist/accompanists Fletcher Henderson and Clarence Williams. Smith is presented as a featured vocalist throughout each...

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