Songwriters Friends

Bessie Smith, often referred to as the greatest of all blues singers, was born on April 15, 1895 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Her first major professional experience came in 1912, touring with blues singer Ma Rainey, who took Smith under her wing. By 1920, Smith had her own show in Atlantic City and in 1923 she moved to New York where she was signed to Columbia Records where her legendary recording career began with the million-selling ‘Down-Hearted Blues,’ a #1 hit in 1923.

Her records proved so popular that they were largely responsible for saving Columbia records from bankruptcy. The depth and power of Bessie’s voice were without equal and she rightly earned the title do of “Empress of the Blues.”

Often accompanied by Louis Armstrong, Clarence Williams, James P. Johnson and other top jazzmen, Smith recorded the hit blues songs ‘Gulf Coast Blues’ (#5, 1923), ‘Aggravatin’ Papa’ (#12, 1923), ‘Baby Won’t You Please Come Home Blues’ (#5, 1923), ‘T’ain’t Nobody’s Biz-Ness If I Do’ (#9, 1923), ‘The St. Louis Blues’ (#3, 1925), ‘Careless Love Blues’ (#5, 1925), ‘I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle’ (#8, 1925), ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody’ (#8, 1926), ‘Lost Your Head Blues’ (#5, 1926), ‘After You’ve Gone’ (#7, 1927), ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ (#17, 1927), ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ (#13, 1928), ‘Empty Bed Blues’ (#20, 1928), ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’ (#15, 1929).

The Depression all but ended her career and Bessie died following an auto accident In Clarksdale, Mississippi on September 26, 1937 at the age of 42.


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