Photo credits: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
Bessie Smith was a well-known American blues vocalist during the Jazz Age. Smith was dubbed the “Empress of the Blues” later in her career.
In the 1920s and 1930s, she was the most popular female blues performer. She is widely considered as one of the finest singers of her day, and she had a significant effect on fellow blues and jazz performers. Smith was born on April 15, 1894, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her parents died while she was a child.
Smith and her six siblings made ends meet by singing live on street corners.
Before going out on her own, she began traveling and performing in a singing group that featured Ma Rainey. Her remarkable music career began in 1923 with Columbia Records. Smith’s debut record, “Down Hearted Blues,” was released on Columbia on February 16, 1923. The song eventually went on to sell almost a million copies!
Bessie Smith’s amazing life was tragically cut short at the age of 43 due to a vehicular accident on September 26, 1937, in Clarksdale, Mississippi.