The 1900 census indicates that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July 1892. Bessie’s pleasing contralto and mesmerizing showmanship propelled her from poverty to international fame as a singer of “classic” blues tunes, many of which she wrote and co-wrote. Bessie Smith, in full Elizabeth Smith, (born April 15, 1894?, Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.—died September 26, 1937, Clarksdale, Mississippi), American singer, one … But that’s not even the worst part. According to the 1900 census, Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July 1892. K. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience.

The 78 rpm disc included two songs: "Downhearted Blues" and "Gulf Coast Blues." Gertrude, or Ma Rainey, is known as the "Mother of the Blues"; she was undoubtedly an influence on Bessie Smith's beginnings. Some user-contributed text on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Because of her early stage experience, Bessie’s repertoire was extensive by the time she made her first record in 1923. For all that Smith loved to engage with her sensual side, she had a different and much more destructive vice: drinking. Bessie Smith was one of the biggest African-American stars of the 1920’s and was popular with both Whites and African-Americans. Soon enough, word got around about her amazing voice, so much so that appreciative audience members would often throw money at her on stage, and studio heads began eyeing her up for recordings. Bessie had transitioned herself as a Swing musician and was on the verge of a comeback when her life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident in 1937. Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – Sept. 26, 1937) was one of the most popular and best-selling performers and recording artists of the 1920s.

Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. Her father died soon after her birth and her mother and two of her brothers died by the time she was eight or … The Most Phenomenal Women in Music History, Biography of Frank Sinatra, Legendary Singer, Entertainer, Biography of Marilyn Monroe, Model and Actress, 10 Powerhouse Women Sing Bossa Nova Classics, 25 Great One Hit Wonders and Where They Are Now, 20 Country Songs That Will Make You Feel the Blues. Bessie Smith hadn’t made it through the mean streets of her childhood without learning a thing or two, and she was one smart cookie about Ma Rainey. Go directly to shout page. Sure, Bessie’s custom train let her engage in a life of delicious sin across the 50 states, but it also had a secret purpose that was much different than revelry. She simply charged out of the tent and yelled, “You just pick up them sheets and run!” That’s exactly what they did. From petty paybacks to insane acts of karma, these bitter people somehow found the most ingenious ways….

In 1937 Bessie Smith had begun to stage a successful comeback, adapting her powerful voice to the new swing music. Read Full Biography. Smith must have liked what she saw, though, because she married Gee just a handful of months after meeting him, tying the knot in a ceremony on June 7, 1923. She appeared in St. Louis Blues that year (a low-budget movie short that contains the only footage of her), but her hit recording of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" predicted her leaner Depression years. Doctors even amputated her right arm in the battle to save her…but it was all for naught. Everyone could see that Smith and Gee were headed nowhere fast, but no one predicted just how dire things would get. The traditional, humble Jack could barely stand this…so it’s good he didn’t know half of what comes next.

She gradually developed her own following in the south and along the eastern seaboard. See, Smith never quite forgot the “lessons” she might have learned from Ma Rainey, and she kept up a string of relationships with women throughout her marriage to Gee. Bessie was accompanied by theatrical producer Clarence Williams on the piano. During her less-than-stellar marriage to Gee, Smith somehow decided there was only one thing that would fix their union…adopting a child. Before the Great Depression, Bessie was the highest-paid black entertainer in the world, collecting as much as two thousand dollars a week to sing such songs as her own, “Nobody Knows you When You’re Down and Out,” “Empty Bed Blues,” and “Backwater Blues,” accompanied by the finest musicians of the day, including Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, and Benny Goodman. After a lifetime of poverty, Bessie wasted no time blowing through the money, even buying her own custom-made, 72-foot railroad car to travel in. The lucky girl was one of her rival singers, Gertrude Saunders, and hell hath no fury like Bessie Smith. Smith tried to grind out live performances in clubs and capture that old magic of the Roaring 20s, but a very different chapter of her life had already begun. Obviously, they eventually decided to give her a promotion, which was definitely the right choice for the pampered, headstrong Bessie. Thanks for your time! The 17-minute film boasted a screenplay by W.C. Instead of starting a cat fight, Smith began to study the more experienced woman’s performances, and many people believe she learned her legendary stage presence from Rainey.

Bessie Smith was born on April 15, 1894, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You bet it did. In 1923, Columbia Records issued her first recording, “Down-Hearted Blues”, which was a huge success. And oh, the things that railroad car saw. Frantic, the doctor transferred the singer over to the shoulder of the road in an attempt to keep her safe from oncoming traffic. Back in 1912, Bessie Smith sang in the same show as Ma Rainey, who took her under her wing and coached her. Please submit feedback to Bessie Smith died as the result of a car crash near Clarksville, Tennessee on September 26, 1937. Then, Chicago's Defender newspaper crowned her the "Empress of the Blues Singers", beating out figures such as Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, Ma Rainey, and Ethel Waters for the title. In 1929, she made the film St. Louis Blues, a dramatization of the song of the same name. Given her tragic and untimely end, footage like that is absolutely priceless. Smith had a type: Young, impressionable, and totally under her sway. While on tour, she was fatally injured in a car accident. An estimated 10,000 grieving mourners showed up for her funeral; so many that they had to move the service to a larger venue than they originally planned.

Whatever the truth, Smith’s formative years went out with a bang. Smith's career included long-term runs at major venues, playing to packed houses throughout the twenties in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, and Memphis. She composed many of her own songs, and when she sang the blues, she sang of the American Black experience – suffering and joy, betrayal and courage. In the 1930s, however, the Great Depression and talking movies crippled vaudeville and nearly killed the recording industry.