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Died On This Date (December 22, 1939) Ma Rainey / Blues Icon

Posted by themusicsover on December 22, 2009

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey
September, 1882 or April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939

Called the Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey was one of it’s earliest stars as well as one of it’s first generation to record.  She was a direct influence on Bessie Smith and no doubt, countless more.   She began her music career as a vaudeville performer at just 14.  Several years later, Smith joined that same troupe as a dancer and soon learned to sing the blues from Rainey.  In 1923, Rainey made her first recording, and over the next five years, she recorded more than 100 songs, including “C.C. Rider” (better known as “See See Rider”), “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and “Bo Weevil Blues.”  Over the years, she was backed by such musicians as Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Fletcher Henderson.   With the music of blues’ first generation falling out of favor by the early ’30s, Rainey retired to run a couple of theaters in her hometown in 1932.  On December 22, 1939, Ma Rainey died of a heart attack.

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One Response to “Died On This Date (December 22, 1939) Ma Rainey / Blues Icon”

  1. I saw a great play on Ma Rainey years ago. I was born on the day she died:
    December 22, 1939.

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