Bessie Smith was born on this date in 1894.
Bessie Smith earned the title of “Empress of the Blues” by virtue of her forceful vocal delivery and command of the genre. Her singing displayed a soulfully phrased, boldly delivered and nearly definitive grasp of the blues. In addition, she was an all-around entertainer who danced, acted and performed comedy routines with her touring company. She was the highest-paid black performer of her day and arguably reached a level of success greater than that of any African-American entertainer before her. – See more at: http://www.rockhall.com/inductees/bessie-smith/bio/#sthash.jw6UNMwz.dpuf
. . .
Some of her better-known sides from the Twenties include “Backwater Blues,” “Taint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do,” “St. Louis Blues” (recorded with Louis Armstrong), and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” The Depression dealt her career a blow, but Smith changed with the times by adapting a more up-to-date look and revised repertoire that incorporated Tin Pan Alley tunes like “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” On the verge of the Swing Era, Smith died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident outside Clarksdale, Mississippi, in September 1937. She left behind a rich, influential legacy of 160 recordings cut between 1923 and 1933. Some of the great vocal divas who owe a debt to Smith include Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. In Joplin’s own words of tribute, “She showed me the air and taught me how to fill it.”
And this from a review of The Essential Bessie Smith.
Bessie could sing it all, from the lowdown moan of “St. Louis Blues” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” to her torch treatment of the jazz standard “After You’ve Gone” to the downright salaciousness of “Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.” Covering a time span from her first recordings in 1923 to her final session in 1933, this is the perfect entry-level set to go with. Utilizing the latest in remastering technology, these recordings have never sounded quite this clear and full, and the selection — collecting her best-known sides and collaborations with jazz giants like Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Goodman — is first-rate. If you’ve never experienced the genius of Bessie Smith, pick this one up and prepare yourself to be devastated.
There are no lyrics today that surpass “Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl” for sexual imagery.
And, there is no more important recording in American musical history than Smith and Armstrong’s “St. Louis Blues.”
In listening to the earliest recordings, keep in mind there were no microphones until 1925. The artists sang or played and the sound was recorded acoustically, i.e., without electrical amplification.
And Thomas Hart Benton was born on this date in 1889.
Named after his great-uncle, Missouri’s first senator, Thomas Hart Benton was born on 15 April 1889 in Neosho, Missouri, an Ozark town of 2,000 people. … In 1935 they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where Benton directed the Art Institute until 1941, and where he contiued to live for the rest of his life. Albert Barnes, the Philadelphia collector, purchased some of his paintings, which raised the level of public success for the artist. Benton published his autobiography, An Artist in America, in 1937. He completed several murals in the midwest and on the east coast. Shortly before Harry Truman’s death in December 1972, Benton finished a portrait of the former President. Thomas Hart Benton died on 19 January 1975 in Kansas City, the day he completed a large mural for the Country Music Foundation of Nashville.