Jazz and History

(5) Bessie Smith, Empress of Blues

Bessie Smith(1894-1937)

Ma Rainey(1886-1939)

At the time that Jazz was arising, Bessie Smith was considered as a greatest singer called Empress of Blues. She had never flattered to anybody, and she kept singing for sorrow and cry of the blacks. She recorded songs splendidly with classical singing method that could be superior to Aria of opera.

Blues sang by Smith impresses our mind with vigor concealed with sorrow. What has made her songs so reassured? Having been a huge lady, that's herself.

Other than Bessie Smith, there were many blues singers. Ma Rainey who could be stated as Bessie's instructor, but Rainey could earn so little that she had to live in poor like other blues singers.

However, Bessie was an exception among these living in poor because Frank Walker, director of Columbia Record, saved money for her.

[translated by Mariko Ukawa]

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