The Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith was one of the biggest selling singers & performers of the 1920’s and 30’s. Her rich contralto was a powerful statement of black and female independence, fearlessness, sexual and financial freedom, widening the vision of African American womanhood beyond the piety and conformity of the day. She told it like it really was! Bessie Smith had a commanding personality and voice. She started out singing in vaudeville and minstrel shows through the south. As she became more successful she signed to Columbia records and became one of their top recording artists. Later she would be recording with a young Louis Armstrong. Her legacy is a library of 131 recordings on Columbia.
And Billie Holiday, in her own unique way, carried those themes into the next couple of decades after Bessie. Billie has a way of taking over a song and really reach you. Listen to her tracks on Columbia and you can hear her develop and blossom. Billie went on to be a prominent singers for the big bands of the the 1940s. She sang with Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and othere. Her long time friend and musician Lester Young dubbed her Lady Day.
Follow the lives and music of these two extraordinary pioneers, Bessie & Billie, Saturday February 23rd from 10am-2pm with Sonny & Mel on Midday Jazz.