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Bessie Smith - Essay Example

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Bessie Smith’s inherent passion for music was discovered fortunately at a very young age as she and her brother took to the streets of their local neighbourhoods in Chattanoonga, as they sang and danced in order to earn money for their meals. However, her brother soon left her to join a professional troupe and she was left behind due to being very young. Soon enough, her brother arranged for a meeting and interview for Bessie for the Stokes Troupe and she was hired as a dancer but not as a singer, thus her true potential had yet not been realised. In 1915, the singer left and became a part of the Theater Owners Bookers Association, an African American performance group and this became the milestone in her career. The group helped her to gain popularity all over and become a recognised singer. Following this, offers began coming in for Bessie to be part of musicals and one of her firsts, titled ‘How Come?’ made its way to Broadway as well. Here, Bessie co starred with Sidney Bechet. Looking at her success and getting motivated by the same, Smith moved on to working in theatre, mostly Black theatres as they accepted her better, and in 1923 she landed with her first recording contract. Soon enough, Bessie became one of the highest paid black women in her field however, the money did not make much difference to her life then and she realised she wanted to sing all her life. Smith’s voice, mellifluous and harmonious, was something she was able to practice and develop on her own. She did not receive any formal training from anywhere, and with the practice she had had since her early years, she dedicated and devoted more time to get even better than what she was and all that she had achieved. Bessie’s mentor, during her years with the Stokes Troupe was Ma Rainey, and she learned a lot during her time there even though it was not a platform for her to better her vocal power and skills. Nonetheless, under Ma Rainey, she was able to learn and understand what stage presence meant and how she could make herself better in front of the general public. During the time that Bessie was trying to establish herself, the environment for black people was not very conducive. Apartheid reigned badly all around and the opportunities for blacks were very limited, especially in off the hook fields like music. She first got a chance to sing with Okeh Records as they signed her alongside Mamie Smith. Being a woman, Bessie knew she had to really give in her best and fight for her rights in order to get her music heard across to people and have them accept her first as a musician and then as an identity and part of her race. Columbia Records thus, was impressed by her because of her work with Okeh Records, and soon signed her as a part of ‘race records’ series with her record named ‘Cemetery Blues’ which was the first to be released in 1923. Paramount Label had helped Bessie’s first hit titled ‘Gulf Coast Blues’ coupled with ‘Downhearted Blues’ to become an even bigger hit than what it was at the time of release. Bessie began to tour following this success as well as prepared and trained for theatre productions and musicals. She was given titles such as ‘ ...Show more
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Name 3 June 2011 Assignment The period of Jazz music flourished greatly in the United States of America under the influence of musical greats like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. Also referred to as the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith had established herself as one of the most renowned musicians in the field of jazz and blues in the period between the 1920s and 1930s…
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