Bessie: Revised and expanded edition by Chris Albertson

By Chris Albertson

This book—a revised and extended variation of the definitive biography of Bessie Smith, referred to as the “Empress of the Blues”—debunks some of the myths that circulated after her premature demise in 1937. For this new version, Chris Albertson offers extra information of Bessie’s early years, new interview fabric, and a bankruptcy dedicated to occasions and responses that the unique publication.“The first estimable full-length biography not just of Bessie Smith yet of any black musician.”—Whitney Balliett, New Yorker (on the 1st edition)“A remarkably clear-eyed exam of Smith’s character (and sexuality) and, extra very important, of the gritty and grasping track business.”—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly“A brilliant portrait of this vital American diva."—Will Friedwald, ny Sun“The such a lot devastating, provocative, and enlightening paintings of its sort ever contributed to the annals of jazz literature.”—Leonard Feather, la instances (on the 1st edition)“An exemplary biography . . . [with] a gripping, frequently relocating, narrative.”—John Mole, occasions Literary complement

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A societal transition was under way, the stiff-collared, pince-nez generation was being shown the door and the new generation that lined up had a very different look, for lurking in all of this was fodder for a feminist movement that would resurface in full force almost half a century later. After years of protest and demonstration by pioneering feminists, Congress finally passed the Suffragette Amendment, and young women were quick to develop a carefree, inyour-face attitude that probably took the movement beyond anything the suffragettes had imagined.

So began a long tradition of looting black creativity. A quotation from an 1845 issue of Knickerbocker magazine offers early recognition of this problem: ‘‘Who are our true rulers? The Negro poets, to be sure. Do they not set the fashion, and give laws to the public taste? Let one of them, in the swamps of Carolina, compose a new song, and it no sooner reaches the ear of a white amateur, than it is written down, amended (that is, almost spoilt), printed, and then put upon a course of rapid dissemination, to cease only with the utmost bounds of Anglo-Saxondom, perhaps with the world.

Steeped in the blues tradition, he viewed the genre as a gem in the rough; give it a slight polish, he felt, and even Northerners would recognize its true beauty. As he armed himself with blues material and aggressively made the rounds of New York record companies, Bradford became a man on a mission, a visionary determined to open the ears of the music industry’s decision- 24 Bessie makers. But his main objective was to peddle his own songs (or songs he had published as his own) and to secure a recording agreement for Mamie Smith, a black vaudeville singer from Cincinnati, Ohio, whom he represented.

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