I saw a short movie the other night at a film festival, featuring Bessie Smith. I've heard of Bessie Smith, but never really listened to any of her music. (Shame!) We're going back a long time when we speak of Bessie Smith. She was popular during the 1920's and early 1930's.
Bessie Smith, "The Empress of the Blues,"was born circa 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She had several older siblings. One of her older brothers, in 1912, managed to use his influence to allow Bessie to join the Stokes Troupe. Ma Rainey, another blues singer, was featured in this troupe. Originally, Bessie joined as a dancer (similar to Ella Fitzgerald's story), and later was discovered as a singer.
Some of Bessie's well known hits included "Downhearted Blues," and "St. Louis Blues." Pretty much all the songs are about broken hearts and lost love.
Lore has it that Bessie Smith was bisexual, having affairs with both men and women throughout her life. Unfortunately, she lived a short life. In 1937, she was in a serious car accident, and died a few days later.
Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out (1923)