"Bessie Smith: A Poet's Biography of a Blues Legend" by Jackie Kay
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There has never been anyone else like Bessie Smith. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1894 and orphaned by the age of nine, Bessie Smith sang on street corners before becoming a big name in traveling shows. In 1923, she made her first recording for the newly founded Columbia Records. It sold 780,000 copies and catapulted her to fame. Known for her unmatched vocal talent, her timeless and personal blues narratives, her tough persona, and her ability to enrapture audiences with her raw voice, the Empress of the Blues remains a force and an enigma.
In this remarkable book, Kay combines history and personal narrative, poetry and prose to create an enthralling account of an extraordinary life, and to capture the soul of the woman she first identified with as a young Black girl growing up in Glasgow. Powerful and moving, Bessie Smith is at once a vivid biography of a central figure in American music history and a personal story about one woman’s search for recognition.