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Bessie Smith Died on This Day in 1937


Bessie Smith’s death was the result of a car accident outside of Memphis, according to This Day in Music.

Here is more on Smith from The Red Hot Jazz Archieve:

Bessie Smith was a rough, crude, violent woman. She was also the greatest of the classic Blues singers of the 1920s. Bessie started out as a street musician in Chattanooga. In 1912 Bessie joined a traveling show as a dancer and singer. The show featured Pa and Ma Rainey, and Smith developed a friendship with MaMa Rainey was Bessie’s mentor and she stayed with her show until 1915. Bessie then joined the T.O.B.A. vaudeville circuit and gradually built up her own following in the south and along the eastern seaboard. By the early 1920s she was one of the most popular Blues singers in vaudeville. In 1923 she made her recording debut on Columbia, accompanied by pianist Clarence Williams. They recorded “Gulf Coast Blues” and “Down Hearted Blues.” The record sold more than 750,000 copies that same year, rivaling the success of Blues singer Mamie Smith (no relation). Throughout the 1920s Smith recorded with many of the great Jazz musicians of that era, including Fletcher HendersonJames P. JohnsonColeman HawkinsDon Redman and Louis Armstrong. Her rendition of “St. Louis Blues” with Armstrong is considered by most critics to be one of finest recordings of the 1920s. (Continue Reading…)

Smith was 44 years old when she died. Above is a version of St. Louis Blues song without Armstrong.