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HE WHO FUNKS BEHIND THE ROWS!!
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I discovered Bessie Smith's music in the late 80's/early 90's
when Sony/Legacy released a 4-box "Complete Recordings" series
spanning her whole recording career from 1923, when she
signed to Columbia Records' "Race Records" division and became
a huge star with the low-down rawkus blues songs that were popular
with both blacks and whites of the time, all through the 1920's,
to the depression era, where her popularity faded and the real-life
blues of people on breadlines eclipsed the romantic & hard times
blues in her most popular recordings.
"Folks don't wanna hear the blues no 'mo, times is hard!"
Bessie was heard to exclaim to her closest freinds.
Born in or around April 1894, in Chattanooga, TN into
abject poverty, suffocating Jim Crow racism, child abuse,
desolation all around her, the young tall stringy black gal
named Bessie Smith learned to scrap for survival at very early age.
Her and her brother Clarence took to the streets at a young age
as "buck dancers" and minstral-type skit performers,
which over time, Bessie developed perfect comedic timing,
slick dance moves, presence, and a voice that could stop people
in their tracks and put them in a trance!
People who heard Bessie in person said that her singing was
clear, powerful and went straight to your soul!
It was like a religious experience some said, except in her day
the blues was seen as crude and profane by narrow-minded church
types who saw her as a tortured soul singing the devil's music
who would surely burn in hell for all eternity!
The author of this book had at his disposal the invaluable,
totally believable and colorful recantings of Bessie's niece
through marriage, Ruby Walker, who traveled & performed with Bessie
and who cuts through alot of the folklore surrounding Bessie's
legend, as black artists of that time were not followed around
by biographers who chronicled their every move.
Bessie was a hell of a woman who lived high & low,
sang with all her might, fought like a demon, could be the
kindest person on earth and at the same time,
the meanest nastiest crudest sow ever to draw breath!
Black, White, Rich, Poor, Man or Woman...it didn't matter!
She was not the one to cross because BIG BESSIE would beat
you down with her fists, cut you with a straight razor,
stab you with a butcher knife or blow you away with
her 44. pistol if you pissed her off, disrepected her,
or got in the way of her living her life to the fullest!
She was strong as a man, could swill down her favorite
corn liquor, eat huge plates of down home soul food,
party & screw till the early dawn light, out curse a
longshoreman, and even ran 3 blocks with a butcher knife
sticking in her gut, chasing a disgruntled man who
she'd beat up for harrassing her & her chorines
at a back woods party! (A Tough Broad Indeed!!)
She once knocked a white man's teeth out who called her
a black ni*#!* and tried to cheat her out of her money!
She really dug her young attractive strapping male and
female chorines and carried on torrid affairs with them
which were all rife with passion & drama!
She even took on the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan in 1928!
The things this strong no-nonsense black woman got away with
at a time when blacks (male or female) were still being lynched
in the south is unbelievable! But that was Bessie!!
She was a shrewd business woman who was once the highest paid
woman entertainer in the country at a time that was unheard of
for a black performer. Her tent & theatre shows were huge both
in the south and in the big northern cities as well...
people lined up for blocks to hear and see her
weave her mystifying blues spell!
But with all of her power, natural talent, the light & dark of
her nature, she was still a woman, a vulnerable little po'
black gal from down home who was scarred by her times,
and she had horrible choice in men!---Enter Frank Gee,
who was her achilles heel, waterloo, love of her life
and cheif exploiter all-in-one!
Her man and her family could get away with using her to
no end, and she forgave them things that she would've killed
an outsider for! There were periods too, off the road,
where Bessie could be downright domestic and dote on her
husband, adopted son, family & freinds.
She could be like the sunshine or a hellacious monsoon!!
This story has so many layers and textures..great humor,
horror, debauchery, devil-may-care attitude, fights, lovers
of both sexes, great tragedy, etc.
All the stuff of a great epic tale by Homer!
But like I said, Bessie was a hell of a woman, a pioneer on so
many levels, a force of nature and a singer of enormous gifts
whose influence continues to reach over near nine decades
and still effects people who hear her or read her story!
She truly lived what she sang about!
Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, Big Maybelle,
Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown, Janis Joplin, Mahalia Jackson,
Tina Turner, even PINK...just a few of the mythic women artists
whose careers span many musical genres and who each became legends
in their own right by putting all of their heart, soul and passion
into their performances...just like MAMA BESSIE did!!
She was even a huge influence on GAY DISCO ICON, SYLVESTER!!
In fact, she and Ruby used to love to go to the drag pageants
and undercover hole-in-wall gay joints back in the 1920's!!
This book is a must read and would make an excellent movie!
Don't sleep on this one here!!
Her untimely death and funeral has always been wrapped in
as much folklore as her colorful life was, but this book
addresses and explodes the myth from the facts.
REST IN PEACE BESSIE SMITH
(April 15th 1894 - September 26th 1937)