Friday, March 6, 2015

Ladies Sing the Blues

Originally a man's world, the Blues attracted female vocalists who were sometimes more popular than their counterparts.  They became stars of "urban" blues in the North, especially Harlem, and later at festivals during the revival period (1950s - 1960s).

For more information, these books are available: Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature
PS 153 .N5 L68 2013 General Collection, Fourth Floor East

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday, by Angela Davis
ML 3521 .D355 1998

Men are Like Street Cars: Women Blues Singers, 1928 - 1969
Compact Disc 12861

Ma Rainey (1886 - 1939) made over 100 recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, as a soloist and in collaboration with Louis Armstrong.  She toured widely and influenced a younger generation of singers, including Bessie Smith.
Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey  ML 420 .R274 L5

Alberta Hunter (1894 - 1984) sang the blues and jazz as a soloist and in collaboration with some of the legendary men of music history. She began her career in Chicago and traveled the world entertaining the troops during World War 2.

Bessie Smith, the "Empress of the Blues."  (1894 - 1937) is considered one of the best singers of the 1920s and 1930s.  She influenced both blues and jazz singers and was the highest paid black entertainer of her day.
Song book:  Bessie Smith, Empress of the BluesM 1630.18 .S62 S6 1975

Ethel Waters (1896 - 1977) Her early career was spent in several cities and on the road, but she settled in Harlem and became one of the stars of the Harlem Renaissance.  She branched out to Broadway and other styles.  She reached wide audiences with film performances in Cabin in the Sky (1943) and Pinky (1949)

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 - 1973) sang religious music in a blues style, playing guitar as a young child.  Southern gospel developed on a parallel track to Blues and Jazz, and Tharpe had some crossover hits.  A postage stamp was created in her honor in 1998.

Shout, Sister, Shout!  The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe
ML 420 .T395 W35 2007

"Big Mama" Thornton (1926 - 1984) is most famous for "Hound Dog," which was covered by Elvis Presley.  She was part of the Blues Revival of the 1950s and 1960s, and performed with Muddy Waters among other Blues legends. She composed her own songs and also played harmonica.
Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings (1952 - 1957)  Compact Disc 21374

Although Billie Holiday (1915 - 1959) titled her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, she was more of a jazz singer, influenced by the Big Band era more than the Blues.

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