Bessie Smith

“Empress of the Blues”

She embodied the meaning of the blues, living the life she sang about. Bessie Smith set the standard for blues singers on how it should be done.

Bessie Smith, born on Apr. 15, 1894, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was one of ten children. Her parents died by her eighth birthday, and she was raised by her older sister Viola. She was taught to sing and dance by her older brother Clarence, who later arranged an audition for Smith with the traveling Moses Stokes Show where she was hired as a dancer in 1912. She became friends with Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, a blues singer, who became her mentor. Bessie was quick to learn the profession, and by 1915 struck out own her own, singing in a vaudeville circuit and started establishing a reputation in the south and on the east coast.

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