Bessie Smith, probably the most influential lady blues singer of all time, was born on this day 121 years ago in Chattanooga, TN. If you draw a line of influences for any female soul singer, you'll most likely find the root leads back to Bessie Smith. The foundation of American popular music largely rests on her shoulders. It's hard to imagine leaving that kind of enormous and LASTING impact on culture. But it's easy to explain when you consider that the vocalists she directly influenced went on to influence so many who came after them: Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, to name just a few. The influence of Bessie Smith fans out from there.
With this HBO bio featuring Queen Latifah on it's way, Bessie is all the rage these days. It's great to see her getting some respect. Hopefully a new generation will seek out her music after they learn her story.
My favorite will always be "Gimme A Pigfoot," from Bessie's final recording session and released at the lowest point of the Great Depression. Admittedly, I'm no expert about music of this era. If anyone has analysis of this song, I'd love to hear it. It seems like she's mocking high brow society at the opening of the record and then celebrating Black culture for the rest of the song. Certainly "party songs" tend to be popular in eras of great struggle, as people welcome distraction. Give this a listen and draw your own conclusions.
In this era of the #BlackLivesMatter civil rights movement, certainly Bessie's story is poignant. The greatest entertainment star of her era essentially died because she was refused medical treatment due to her race. I'm thankful her story is being told in a very high profile way and hopefully the media will draw some connections to what's still happening today.
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!