Archive for the ‘Female Blues’ Category

Queen Bessie

Posted: January 11, 2013 in Bessie Smith, David Sessions, Female Blues


Author: David Sessions

Source: Jazz News, April 5, 1961, p. 8


“BESSIE SMITH – Voice N.G.” Thus reads the entry against the date 21st April 1924 in Thomas Edison’s Talent Audition File. The grandfather of the gramophone obviously didn’t dig the blues for the same date shows “awful voice”, “No, voice bad”, “No – Singer N.G.” against the names of Lizzie Miles, Sara Martin and Viola McCoy respectively while Rosa Henderson earned the judgement “This is the limit. Can’t stand this voice. I have heard needle machine blues with much better voices”!.



Author: J.E. Warner

Source: The Record Changer, June 1950


“The last of the great blues singers is gone. It can be said as simply as that, without going into sentimental
eulogies-and Bertha ” Chippie” Hill, who sang deep and hard, and who died suddenly in an automobile accident on the night of May 7, wouldn’t have wanted sentimentality.
Chippie had two singing careers. The first began when she was only fourteen (by her own estimate), and opened at Leroy’s, a once-famous Harlem show spot. It lasted for perhaps a dozen years, with Chippie hitting the top in Chicago in 1926, when she made ten or twelve sides-mostly with Louis Armstrong and pianist Richard Jones. That career was voluntarily cut short at the end of the ‘ twenties, when she retired to concern herself with the job of raising seven


Author: Karl Gert zur Heide

Source: Doctor Jazz Magazine 213, Summer 2011


Karl Gert zur Heide on early blues and the role of May Rainey


Author: Rasheedah Jenkins

Source: Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College


In this study, the author uses folk music as the primary interest and chosen location to acknowledge Black women’s participation from beyond the margins. The study reveals that folk music is as a lens into the myriad ways in which Black women have translated vernacular traditions into a means to deconstruct the master narrative as well as interrogate racist patriarchy.

Specifically, this study examines how Nina Simone, Tracy Chapman, and Lauryn Hill have appropriated the folk aesthetic as a vehicle for social activism and cultural autobiography.

The study broadens the scope of folk music by discussing the Afro-American oral tradition, cultural experience(s), and political practices. It traces the tradition from its early forms such as hollers and sorrow songs to blues and rap, its latest evolution. It delineates the roots of Black folk music as both balm and battle cry during periods of social upheaval, since the music has long provided a living record of African American struggle. In particular, the study address how Black female performers have appropriated the folk aesthetic as a means of political expression, ethno-autobiography/documentation, and for community/nation-building projects.
The scholarship on American folk music has marginalized Black folk music and musicians, or discussed it from a masculinist perspective, thus emphasizing only the Black male contribution. This study corrects this imbalance by focusing on the African American female contribution within the Black folk music tradition.



Author: Hazel V. Carby


The essay examines the sexual politics of women’s blues of the 1920s, and compares it to black women’s fiction writing during this period. The author argues that classic blues singers Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Ethel Waters had more latitude to challenge patriarchy, and reveal the contradictions of black women’s experience than black women writers.



Author: Angela Y. Davis

Source:  CHAPTER ONE  : “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism – Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday

Quoted from:


Author: Matthew Keeler


A Thesis
Submitted to the Graduate College of Bowling Green
State University in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of
December 2005

Bessie Smith: an American Icon from Three Perspectives examines biographies, literary studies, and black feminist writings about the quintessential blueswoman of the 1920s American recording industry. Problems have arisen from each group of scholars interpreting Smith’s contributions and importance to American culture differently, often at the expense of someone else’s viewpoint. Historically, biographers tried to dispel myths in order to determine the true events of Smith’s life, but dismissed the necessity of myth in shaping her legacy. Literary scholars analyzed Smith’s lyrics for deeper social meanings and contributions to literature, but overlooked her role as a performer. Black feminists acknowledged Smith as a model for strong African-American womanhood among the urban working-class, but neglected her innovations as a musician. All of these perspectives contribute to our overall understanding of Smith, but possess fundamental flaws. I have examined nearly fifty years of Bessie Smith scholarship, considering the socio-cultural backgrounds, time periods, genders, and research limitations of scholars representing these various groups. Ultimately, their biases compromise our understanding of Smith. To address this problem, future researchers need to look beyond individual histories to understand the reasoning and research processes that created them.