Born: Apr 15, 1894 AD
Died: 1937 AD, at 43 years of age.
1898 - Born on April 15th in Chattanooga, Tennesee.
1907 - Smith grew up in poverty and obscurity. She may have made a first public appearance at the age of eight or nine at the Ivory Theatre in her hometown.
1919 - She was discovered by Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, one of the first of the great blues singers, from whom she received some training.
1920 - She made her home in Philadelphia, and it was there that she was first heard by Clarence Williams, a representative of Columbia Records.
1923 - She made her first recordings, including the classic “Down Hearted Blues,” which became an enormous success, selling more than two million copies.
1929 - Known in her lifetime as the “Empress of the Blues”, Smith was a bold, supremely confident artist who often disdained the use of a microphone and whose art expressed the frustrations and hopes of a whole generation of black Americans. Her tall figure and upright stance, and above all her handsome features, are preserved in a short motion picture, "St. Louis Blues", banned for its realism and now preserved in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.
1937 - Died on September 26th in Clarksdale, Mississippi. She died from injuries sustained in a road accident.
1960 - It was said that, had she been white, she would have received earlier medical treatment, thus saving her life, and Edward Albee made this the subject of his play "The Death of Bessie Smith".
Page last updated: 3:14am, 17th Mar '07