Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith: Two Legendary Classical Blues Artists Essay

The blues emerged as a distinct African-American musical form in the early twentieth century. It typically employed a twelve-bar framework and three-lined stanzas; its roots are based in early African-American songs, such as field hollers and work songs, and generally have a melancholy mood. The blues can be divided into many sub-genres, including Classical, Country, and Urban. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the careers of two of Classical blues most influential and legendary singers: Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Ma Rainey, considered by many to be the â€Å"Mother of the Blues,† was one of the first pioneers of the classical blues style. She sang with a deep, rich, and quite often rough contralto voice while the voices of her contemporaries a generation later were more harmonious. Rainey was an important figure in connecting the Classical blues, largely female dominated, with the predominately male Country blues.1 Born Gertrude Pridgett in Georgia in 1886 to parents who had both performed in the minstrel shows, she was exposed to music at a very early age. At the age of fourteen, she performed in a local talent show called â€Å"The Bunch of Blackberries,† and by 1900 she was regularly singing in public.2 Over the next couple of decades, she worked in a variety of traveling minstrel shows, including Tolliver's Circus and Musical Extravaganza, and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels; she was one of the first women to incorporate the blues into minstrelsy. It was while working with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels that she met William Rainey, whom she married in 1904; together, they toured as â€Å"Ma and Pa Rainey: Assassinators of the Blues.† By the early 1920s, she was a star of the Theater Owners' Booking Agency (TOBA), which were white-... ...line of Smith's career – and in Classical blues, in general – was due to changing trends in music. Classical blues was out, and Swing was now the music of choice. Smith, however, was determined to make a comeback. She began performing again, this time labeling herself as a Swing singer. But before she could re-establish herself as a household name, she passed away from injuries caused by an automobile accident. It was not until some years after her death that her music began to be popularized again. Her recordings with Armstrong became popular among jazz musicians and had great influence on singers such as Billie Holiday, who often listened to Smith's records for inspiration. Frank Sinatra held her in high esteem, and Janis Joplin often emulated Smith's voice in her singing. Bessie Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1939.

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