(1894 - 1937)
(born April 15, 1894, Chattanooga, Tennessee;
died September 26, 1937, Clarkesdale, Mississippi)
During her heyday, she sold hundreds of thousands of records and earned upwards of $2000 per week, which was a queenly sum in the 1920s. She routinely played to packed houses in the South as well as the North and Midwest.
By the time the decade had ended, Smith had become the most respected black singer in America and had recorded a catalog of blues that still stands as the yardstick by which all other female blues singers are measured.
To many blacks, her success represented a triumph over white domination in the entertainment business. She gave hope to oppressed black women and inspired countless other singers. Although she died in 1937, still in the prime of her career, she left behind a legacy that is wonderfully rich and practically unparalleled. She ranks with the best artist the blues has ever produced.
Considered by many to be the greatest blues singer of all time, Bessie Smith was also a successful vaudeville entertainer who became the highest-paid African-American performer of the roaring twenties. This book -- a revised and expanded edition of the classic biography of this extraordinary artist -- debunks many of the myths that have circulated since her untimely death in 1937. Chris Albertson writes with insight and candor about the singer's personal life and her career, supplementing his historical research with dozens of interviews with her relatives, friends, and associates, in particular Ruby Walker Smith, a niece by marriage who toured with Bessie for over a decade. For this new edition he includes more details of Bessie's early years, new interview material, and a chapter devoted to events and responses that followed the original publication in 1971.
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