Thursday, October 21, 2004:

empty bed blues

Big thanks to Badger from Orbis Quintus and to Simon from Spoilt Victorian Child for looking at the CSS problem, and to SJ for figuring it out and posting a solution. Teh internets are much smarter (and cooler) than I. ^_^

Bessie Smith -- Empty Bed Blues (parts 1 & 2)
Smoking jazz/blues tune today from Bessie Smith. I thought I had posted something from her already, but looking it over now I see that I haven't.

Bessie Smith worked with Ma Rainey in the early 1900s, followed it with a stretch in vaudeville, and then cut a number of albums in New York over the course of a decade. In that time she worked with a number of people including Coleman Hawkins and Louis Armstrong, and became known as the "Empress of the Blues." It's easy to see why here--she's got a set of pipes on her; her voice is strong and confident enough I can imagine her onstage rocking the house without a mic.

Smith was extraordinarily popular throughout the 1920s but then in the early 30s Columbia dropped her from the roster. The redhotjazz site linked below states that it was because Smith's style of singing was no longer popular and Columbia was suffering competition from radio and sound films, as well as financial troubles from The Great Depression. That's as good an explanation as any, and better than some I could think of.

Smith cut one more album--for Okeh in 1933--and continued to tour; then in 1937 her vehicle rear-ended a truck. Smith broke some of her ribs in the accident and died on the way to the hospital.

Bessie Smith is covered in the Allmusic Guide to the Blues but not the Allmusic Guide to Jazz--which is, I think, a somewhat arbitrary distinction: much of her work would fit in either. Her records for Columbia were re-released in the 1970s as five double LPs, but that's a bit much for most people so I've linked a 16-track introduction instead.

This is a bawdy track, in the same league as Smith's "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl" (famously covered by Nina Simone). NSFW, rated R, etc., hilarious and audacious at the same time.
bio and RealAudio samples

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