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Posts Tagged ‘Bessie Smith’

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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Ma Rainey

Posted in Blues, Singer | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Died On This Date (November 1, 2008) Rosetta Reitz / Founder of Rosetta Records

Posted by themusicsover on November 1, 2009

Rosetta Reitz
September 28, 1924 – November 1, 2008

Photo By Jill Lynne

Photo By Jill Lynne

Rosetta Reitz was a much-respected feminist and music authority who formed her own label, Rosetta Records in 1979.  The label specialized in lost recordings of female blues artist from the 1920s to the 1960s.  Over the years, she released sides by the likes of Ida Cox, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Mae West.  Her packages were noted quality remasters, extensive liner notes and rare historical photos.  Reitz curated the Newport Jazz Festival’s “Women of Jazz” tributes in 1980 and 1981.  The programs included performances by Big Mama Thornton, Nell Carter and Koko Taylor.    Rosetta Reitz was 84 when she passed away on November 1, 2008.



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Died On This Date (October 4, 1970) Janis Joplin / Rock Icon; 27 Club

Posted by themusicsover on October 4, 2009

Janis Joplin
January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970

Member of the 27 Club

Janis Joplin was a pioneering female rock ‘n roll star in an era that saw very few of them.  Born and raised in east Texas, Joplin had a rebellious streak from an early age.   As the rock ‘n roll stereotype goes, she was an outcast who found solace in music of her idols, in this case, Lead Belly, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton.   Joplin left Texas for San Francisco in 1963.    Building a name for herself throughout the scene due to her passionate bluesy singing style,  Joplin was hired by local psychedelic rock favorites, Big Brother and the Holding Company to be their lead singer.   Signed to Columbia Records, the group soon became a breakout act of the San Francisco scene.  Thanks to a few key festival performances, television appearances and such dynamic records as “Ball and Chain” and “Piece of my Heart,” Joplin was universally being touted as one of rock’s greatest voices.   Sadly though, she was waging a battle against hard drugs and alcohol, and to some, each performance seemed like it might be her last.    The band broke up in December of 1970, with Joplin embarking on a solo career.  All the while battling her demons, Joplin recorded what would be her swansong album, Pearl.  The album contained the two rock classics, “Me and Bobby McGhee,” and “Mercedes Benz,” but would not come out until after her death.  On October 4, 1970, when she failed to arrive at the recording studio to work on some finishing touches for Pearl, her band’s road manager drove over to her hotel and found lifeless body.  Janis Joplin was dead of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.

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Pearl - Janis Joplin

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Died On This Date (September 26, 1937) Bessie Smith

Posted by themusicsover on September 26, 2009

Bessie Smith
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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Posted in Jazz, Singer | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »