Bessie Smith Biography

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The African American singer Bessie Smith was born on April 15, 1894, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She was born to the parents William And Laura Smith. William was a laborer and a part-time Baptist priest. Bessie was one of the seven children in her family. The Smith family was well below the poverty line for many years. (BLUE)
When Bessie was just an infant, her father, William passed away. By the time she was eight or nine years old, her mother Laura and two of her brothers had also passed. Bessie and her remaining siblings Tinnie, Lulu, Andrew and Clarence then went to her oldest sister, Viola. Viola eventually moved the children, along with her own daughter, out of their tiny one-room cabin in the poor African-American section of town and into a tenement apartment in Chattanooga's Tannery Flats. (BLACK) Bessie realized she had an unusual voice. She and her younger brother Andrew went to the streets and started playing for money. Andrew played the guitar as Bessie sang. (PURPLE)
In 1912 her older brother was part of the traveling show Moses Stokes minstrel show. She begged her brother to get her an audition with them. She made it and was hired as a dancer. While traveling with Moses Stokes show, she met
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She then married Jack Gee on June 7, 1923. Jack was a night watchman and a part-time manager. Also in 1923, she signed with Columbia Records and really made a name for herself. “Down Hearted Blues” was her first big hit, selling 800,000 copies. Along with another hit, “Gulf Coast Blues.” That really jumpstarted her career. She then worked with many notable artists including Clarence Williams, James P. Johnson, Don Redman, Fletcher Henderson, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. She recorded one of her most famous songs “Backwater Blues” with James P. Johnson. She also sang and starred in the film “St. Louis Blues” with Louis Armstrong in 1929. Also, that year, she starred in a Broadway film “Pansy.”
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