Bessie Smith was the “Empress of the Blues” of the 1920s. Her voice would resonate songs loud enough that she did not need a microphone when singing. She was born in Chattanooga, TN in 1894 – singing and dancing on the streets at a young age with her brothers. After joining up with a traveling minstrel show and meeting up with the legendary “Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Smith later signed up with Columbia Records in 1923.
Smith’s career blossomed during the Harlem Renaissance. She was the highest paid African American entertainer of the 1920s and performed with Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson. Her career was cut short in 1937 when she died from severe injuries as a result of a car crash in Mississippi. She will be known for her flamboyant presence and enticing voice.
Listen to her sing from these website recordings
Books about Bessie Smith