Nicknamed “The Empress of the Blues”, she smoked reefers throughout her career, as did many others in the music industry, she indulged in life, she enjoyed soul food, moonshine and a Joint while never backing down from a fight.
“The Queen Of The Blues” was one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a huge influence on subsequent jazz vocalists, but while others sang aboutPot, she belted out hep tones and lived a life that only comes from hanging around the blueSmoke.
Born to a large, poor family in Tennessee, “Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Smith” got her first taste of the blues singing at her hometown church choir, in Chattanooga. She joined a traveling minstrel show at age 14 and was mentored by “Ma Rainey”.
Reiny, the “Mother of Blues” saw the raw talent in Smith and helped her cultivate it, and in no time Smith was headlining her own shows. By the early 1920s, Smith was signed to “Columbia Records” and had her first hit record “Downhearted Blues”.
This kicked off Smith’s iconic jazz career and quickly made her one of the highest paid black musicians at the time. She did tent shows throughout the south even though the “Ku Klux Klan” had threatened to collapse her tent and set it on fire.
At one point a dozen KKK members did show up at her show only for them to be run off by Smith herself! Smith wasn’t just known for her soulful and heart-wrenching voice but also for her sultry lyric content. She sang about male and female lovers as well asReefer.
In the last verse of her song, “Gimme A Pigfoot” (1933), Smith adds the line, “Gimme A Reefer”, instead of asking for a pigfoot, Smith sings, “Gimmie A Reefer”
Smith continued to shake souls with her voice until her untimely passing in 1937, at the age of 43. She left this world with over 200 songs recorded for us to remember her by.
Her standout performance in the 2002 film adaptation of Chicago earned her nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a SAG Award. In 1996 she was arrested withMarijuana and a gun in her car. Queen Latifah stars as “Empress Of The Blues”.
“Bessie (2015)” is HBO TV Movie about Smith’s life, and her transformation into “The Empress of the Blues” during the 1920s and ’30s. Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith, a woman who is said to have lived quite a colorful, provocative life.
She sometimes favored bawdy lyrics and lived a personal life that also flouted the conventions of polite society; affairs, bisexuality, drinking and smoking reefer all shown somewhat reservedly here, considering that we’re talking about HBO. “Watch Here & Enjoy!”