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Bessie Smith

The first major blues and jazz singer on record and one of the most powerful of all time, Bessie Smith rightly earned the title of "The Empress of the Blues." Even on her first records in 1923, her passionate voice overcame the primitive recording quality of the day and still communicates easily to today's listeners (which is not true of any other singer from that early period). At a time when the blues were in and most vocalists (particularly vaudevillians) were being dubbed "blues singers," Bessie Smith simply had no competition.

Back in 1912, Bessie Smith sang in the same show as Ma Rainey, who took her under her wing and coached her. Although Rainey would achieve a measure of fame throughout her career, she was soon surpassed by her protégée. In 1920, Smith had her own show in Atlantic City and, in 1923, she moved to New York. She was soon signed by Columbia and her first recording (Alberta Hunter's "Downhearted Blues") made her famous. Bessie Smith worked and recorded steadily throughout the decade, using many top musicians as sidemen on sessions including Louis Armstrong, Joe Smith (her favorite cornetist), James P. Johnson, and Charlie Green. Her summer tent show Harlem Frolics was a big success during 1925-1927, and Mississippi Days in 1928 kept the momentum going.

However, by 1929 the blues were out of fashion and Bessie Smith's career was declining despite being at the peak of her powers (and still only 35). 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. Although she was dropped by Columbia in 1931 and made her final recordings on a four-song session in 1933, Bessie Smith kept on working. She played the Apollo in 1935 and substituted for Billie Holiday in the show Stars Over Broadway. The chances are very good that she would have made a comeback, starting with a Carnegie Hall appearance at John Hammond's upcoming From Spirituals to Swing concert, but she was killed in a car crash in Mississippi. Columbia has reissued all of her recordings, first in five two-LP sets and more recently on five two-CD box sets that also contain her five alternate takes, the soundtrack of St. Louis Blues, and an interview with her niece Ruby Smith. "The Empress of the Blues," based on her recordings, will never have to abdicate her throne. ~ Scott Yanow
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Bessie Smith: Queen Of The Blues Volume 1

Disc 1

1. Downhearted Blues

2. Gulf Coast Blues

3. Aggravatin' Papa

4. Beale Street Mama

5. Baby Won't You Please Come Home

7. `Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do

9. Mama's Got The Blues

15. If You Don't I Know Who Will

16. Nobody In Town Can Bake A Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine

17. Jail House Blues

20. Graveyard Dream Blues

Disc 2

1. Whoa Tillie Take Your Time

3. Any Woman's Blues

5. Mistreatin' Daddy

7. Haunted House Blues

8. Eavesdroppers Blues

9. Easy Come Easy Go Blues

12. Ticket Agent Ease Your Window Down

13. Bo Weavil Blues

14. Hateful Blues

15. Frankie Blues

16. Moonshine Blues

18. Mountain Top Blues

19. Work House Blues

20. House Rent Blues

21. Salt Water Blues

22. Rainy Weather Blues

Disc 3

1. Weeping Willow Blues

2. The Bye Bye Blues

3. Sing Sing Prison Blues

4. Follow The Deal On Down

5. Sinful Blues

6. Woman's Trouble Blues

7. Love Me Daddy Blues

9. The St Louis Blues

10. Reckless Blues

11. Sobbin' Hearted Blues

12. Cold In Hand Blues

13. You've Been A Good Old Wagon

14. Cake Walkin' Babies From Home

17. Dixie Flyer Blues

22. He's Gone Blues

Disc 4

1. Nobody's Blues But Mine

2. I Ain't Got Nobody

3. My Man Blues

4. New Gulf Coast Blues

5. Florida Bound Blues

6. At The Christmas Ball

7. I've Been Mistreated And I Don't Like It

8. Red Mountain Blues

9. Golden Rule Blues

10. Lonesome Desert Blues

11. Squeeze Me

12. Them Has Been Blues

13. Squeeze Me

14. What's The Matter Now?

16. Jazzbo Brown From Memphis Town

17. The Gin House Blues

18. Money Blues

19. Baby Doll

21. Lost Your Head Blues

22. Hard Time Blues

23. Honey Man Blues

x

Track List: The Essence Of Bessie Smith

Disc 1

1. Down Hearted Blues

2. Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Bottle Of Beer)

3. Baby Won't You Please Come Home

4. 'Taint Nobody's Business If I Do

5. Any Woman's Blues

7. Graveyard Dream Blues

8. Jail House Blues

10. Boweavil Blues

11. Bye Bye Blues

12. House Rent Blues

13. Sing Sing Prison Blues

14. Woman's Trouble Blues

15. Work House Blues

17. St. Louis Blues

18. Careless Love Blues

19. He's Gone Blues

20. Love Me Daddy Blues

21. Sinful Blues

22. You've Been A Good Old Wagon

Disc 2

1. Young Woman's Blues

2. Gin House Blues

4. Hard Driving Papa

5. What's The Matter Now?

6. A Good Man Is Hard To Find

7. Alexander's Ragtime Band

8. After You've Gone

9. Back Water Blues

10. Honey Man Blues

11. Lock And Key

12. Muddy Water (A Mississippi Moan)

13. Preachin' The Blues

14. Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair

15. There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight

16. Dyin' By The Hour

17. Foolish Man Blues

18. I'd Rather Be Dead And Buried In My Grave

19. Kitchen Man

20. Me And My Gin

21. Black Mountain Blues

22. On Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)

23. I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl

24. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out

x

Track List: Complete Recordings, Vol.8

1. Keep It To Yourself

2. New Orleans Hop Scop Blues

3. See If I'll Care

4. See If I'll Care

5. Baby Have Pity On Me

6. On Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)

7. Moan Mourners

8. Hustlin' Dan

9. Black Mountain Blues

10. In The House Blues

11. Lond Old Road

12. Blue Blue

13. Shipwreck Blues

14. Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl

15. Safety Mama

16. Do Your Duty

17. Gimme A Pigfoot

18. Take Me For A Buggy Ride

19. I'm Down In The Dumps

x

Track List: Complete Recordings, Vol.6 [uk-Import]

1. Sweet Mistreater

2. Lock And Key

3. Mean Old Bedbug Blues

4. Good Man Is Hard To Find

5. Homeless Blues

6. Looking For My Man Blues

7. Dyin' By The Hour

8. Foolish Man Blues

9. Thinking Blues

10. Pickpocket Blues

11. I Used To Be Your Sweet Mama

12. I'd Rather Be Dead And Buried In My Grave

14. It Won't Be You

15. Spider Man Blues

16. Empty Bed Blues Pt. 1

17. Empty Bed Blues Pt. 2

18. Put It Right Here (Or Keep It Out There)

19. Yes Indeed He Do!

20. Devil's Gonna Git You

21. You Ought To Be Ashamed

22. Washwoman's Blues

x

Track List: The Quintessence: "The Empress" 1925-1933

Disc 1

1. Down Hearted Blues

2. Gulf Coast Blues

3. Aggravatin' Papa

5. Graveyard Dream Blues

7. Any Woman's Blues

8. Boweavil Blues

9. Weeping Willow Blues

10. Reckless Blues

11. Sobbin' Hearted Blues

12. Cake Walkin' Babies From Home

13. The Yellow Dog Blues

14. Soft Pedal Blues

15. Nashville Woman's Blues

16. Careless Love Blues

18. At The Christmas Ball

Disc 2

1. Squeeze Me

2. Money Blues

3. Baby Doll

5. Back Water Blues

6. After You've Gone

8. Muddy Water

10. Trombone Cholly

11. Foolish Man Blues

12. Empty Bed Blues

13. St Louis Blues

14. Wasted Life Blues

15. On Revival Day

16. Shipwreck Blues

17. Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl

18. Take Me For A Buggy Ride

x

Track List: The Complete Recordings Vol.3

1. Lou'siana Low-Down Blues

2. Mountain Top Blues

3. Work House Blues

4. House Rent Blues

x

Track List: L'art Vocal ( Vol.3)

1. Down Hearted Blues

4. Weeping Willow Blues

5. St. Louis Blues

6. Reckless Blues

7. Cold In Hand Blues

8. The Yellow Dog Blues

9. Nashville Woman's Blues

10. Careless Love Blues

11. Them "Has Been" Blues

12. Baby Doll

13. Backwater Blues

14. Alexander's Ragtime Band

15. Dyin' By The Hour

16. I Used To Be Your Sweet Mama

18. I'm Wild About That Thing

19. Worn Out Papa Blues

20. On Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)

21. Shipwreck Blues

22. Gimme A Pigfoot

x

Track List: Collection

1. Downhearted Blues

2. 'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do

3. My Sweetie Went Away (She Didn't Say Where, Wheb Or Why)

4. Weepin' Willow Blues

5. St. Louis Blues

6. Reckless Blues

7. You've Been A Good Ole Wagon

8. I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle

9. Young Woman's Blues

10. Muddy Water ( A Mississippi Moan)

11. Mean Old BedBug Blues

12. Empty Bed Blues (Parts 1 & 2)

13. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

14. Black Mountain Blues

15. Do Your Duty

16. Gimme A Pigfoot

x

Track List: The Complete Recordings Vol. 4

Disc 1

1. Standin' In The Rain Blues

2. It Won't Be You

3. Spider Man Blues

4. Empty Bed Blues (Part 1)

5. Empty Bed Blues (Part 2)

6. Put It Right Here (Or Keep It Out There)

7. Yes Indeed He Do!

8. Devil's Gonna Git You

9. You Ought To Be Ashamed

10. Washwoman's Blues

11. Slow And Easy Man

12. Poor Man's Blues

13. Please Help Me Get Him Out Of My Mind

14. Me And My Gin

15. I'm Wild About That Thing

16. You've Got To Give Me Some

17. Kitchen Man

18. I've Got What It Takes (But It Breaks My Heart To Give It Away)

19. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out

20. Take It Right Back ('Cause I Don't Want It Here)

Disc 2

1. He's Got Me Goin'

2. It Makes My Love Come Down

3. Wasted Life Blues

4. Dirty No-Gooder's Blues

5. Blue Spirit Blues

6. Worn Out Papa Blues

7. You Don't Understand

8. Don't Cry Baby

9. Keep It To Yourself

10. New Orleans Hop Scop Blues

11. See If I'll Care

12. Baby Have Pity On Me

13. On Revival Day (A Rhythmic Spiritual)

14. Moan, You Moaners

15. Hustlin' Dan

16. Black Mountain Blues

17. In The House Blues

18. Long Old Road

19. Blue Blues

20. Shipwreck

x

Track List: The Complete Recordings, Volume 7

1. Slow And Easy Man

2. Poor Man's Blues

4. Me And My Gin

5. I'm Wild About That Thing

6. You've Got To Give Me Some

7. Kitchen Man

8. I've Got What It Takes (But It Breaks My Heart To Give It Away)

9. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out

11. St. Louis Blues

12. Take It Right Back ('Cause I Don't Want It Here)

13. He's Got Me Goin'

14. It Makes My Love Come Down

15. Wasted Life Blues

16. Dirty No-Gooder's Blues

17. Blue Spirit Blues

18. Worn Out Papa Blues

19. You Don't Understand

20. Don't Cry Baby

Comments

Report as inappropriate
caseymarre4
α ρяι¢єℓєѕѕ мσмєит иσт ѕσ ℓσѕт ιи тнιѕ αи∂ тнαт тιмє αи∂ тιмєѕ тσ ¢σмє, ву ѕσυℓfυℓ вєιиgѕ σf иσтнιиg σтнєя тнαи..... мσяє тнαи мєєтѕ тнє єує.... ιтѕ αℓℓ ѕσυℓ.. уσυ gσттα яєα¢נн αи∂ σи¢є υ яєα¢н ιт,. уσυ уєяи ¢яανє αи∂ ємвяα¢є..... . уσυяѕ... уσυя α gяєαтfυℓ ∂єνσтє∂ ѕℓανє тσ уσυя ѕσυℓ. уσυ gσт тα fєє∂ ιт. тσ тняινє ιѕ тσ ∂ωєℓℓ ιи уσυя ѕσυℓ.. тσ ℓινє ιѕ тσ ℓєт συя ѕσυℓ ℓєα∂ υѕ. тнιѕ נιиgℓєℓ тнαт ωнαℓιиg нєя∂ fєє∂ѕ тнє иєє∂ѕ σf αℓℓ ѕσυℓfυℓ вєιиgѕ.
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u can still feel her spirit
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You can almost feel the history..
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Speaks to my old soul...
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Who is Betty Smith?
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I love Betty Smith music Billie Holiday a good music I love it I love it forever
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The First Lady of the Blues..
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mathiastck
https://www. y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = r y 9 P e U 5 e n w U Bessie: Tease (HBO Films) HBO Films presents Bessie, focusing on legendary blues singer Bessie Smith, Saturday, May 16 at 8PM
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I am a big fan of Billie Holiday. Billie H loved Bessie Smith. Love Bessie's voice too.
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Im speechless her voice is AMAZING
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Nothing like it.....smoot h , sexy, the best.
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poppa_bear49
Ms. Smith...pure SOUL!!
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jamesmoses46
do your duty!!!!!!!! ! ! ! !
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She is the First, and the Best , and Way ahead of the Times!
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Soul. That's it.
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Billie said that she tried for the sound of Bessie and the feeling of Louis. Great choices!
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I love the nostalgic sounds of her genre. I grew up with the 80s and 90s music. I hear these kinds of music on TV and certain movies and always wonder who the artist is. I'm glad I could listen these songs in this station.
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beachgirls19 6 2 1
sooooooooooo good
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darkhope87
send me to the lectric chair
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Bessie Smith has inspired so many vocalists over the year, and if you listen these recording you csn see why. Thanks Bessie.
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This is the way it was meant to be.
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ladyspineret t e _
I agree benomarr it's pretty awesome to hear it how you would have then, definitely takes you to another time.
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benomarr
I like the old style recordingsof Bessie Smith--it takesme into another age that I love andmissed. I dontneed better sound technology-- i t s real and great the way I hear the recordings. Roger
Report as inappropriate
Bessie Smith is my idol's idol ; Billie Holiday loved her. I could see why. Bessie Smith had a very powerful voice. I would compare it to cannon-fire, but with allot of feeling, allot of soul, and that's what it is all about. I only wish Bessie Smith's recordings sounded better - recording wise, as the technology back then was primative. But we do have the recordings and that is what counts.

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