Bessie Smith “Empress Of The Blues”

bessiesmithThis really is only one of the musicians that helped define the genre of the blues. The early blues artists contributed significantly to the music, whether in the guitar) or vocal talents (normally through their instrumental abilities, and their early records and performances served to affect a generation of blues artists. Whether you are a beginner to the music or a lover of the blues, this is actually the place to begin.

Known as “The Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith was both the greatest and the most well-known of the female singers of the 1920s. A strong, independent woman and a robust vocalist that could sing in both jazz and blues styles, Smith was also the most successful of the age’s singers. Sadly, the general public’s interest in blues and jazz singers – Smith and 1930s was dropped by her label.

Smith returned to her origins and sang in little clubs for a pittance – a far cry from her peak, when she performed in theatres and resort ballrooms throughout the country. Smith’s finest material could be heard in the two-CD set The Essential Bessie Smith (Columbia/Legacy).

Take a listen to Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows When You’re Down & Out”

Exploring The Blues History

bluesThis style of music developed from rural African American experience, derived from an oral tradition of work songs and field hollers and prisoners. Even though the blues’ origins are in African beats, early Mississippi Delta blues musicians frequently incorporated elements of folk and Appalachian-derived “hillbilly” music into the development of the blues.

The birth of the blues is shrouded in doubt and mystery, the music believed to have grown slowly over the span of many decades at the conclusion of the 19th century. Professors and recreational historians alike concur the blues is an amalgam of varied musical styles, from the work songs and field hollers as well as West African Griots sung by slaves that are mainly African to early jug band music, ragtime, and Appalachian folk music.

The blues experienced its “coming out” party in 1920 with what’s broadly regarded as the first genuine blues tune recorded, Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues.” Early blues musicians were generally taught in a variety of musical styles, able of performing raucous blues music for juke joint crowds, but also being well-versed in popular music and conventional folk for when the event deserved such performances.