Posted by themusicsover on September 26, 2009
July 9, 1892 or April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937
Bessie Smith was an influential blues and jazz singer who made an indelible mark on popular music during the ’30s and ’40s. Raised in poverty, Smith and her brother took to the streets of Chattanooga to sing for any change they could get for the family. Her break into show business came in 1912 when she successfully auditioned for a traveling vaudeville group. She settled for being a dancer however, since the group already had a female lead in Ma Rainey. Smith eventually moved over to live theater, making it all the way to Broadway on more than one occasion. She also appeared in the 1929 film version of St. Louis Blues. Known at the time as more of a blues singer, Smith moved over to swing in the early ’30s, thanks to legendary talent scout John Hammond, who brought her in to record for Okeh Records. Bessie Smith was killed following a horrific car accident. She had been the passenger in a car whose driver had likely fallen asleep at the wheel, causing the accident. Smith was 43 years old at the time of her death.
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