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Bessie Smith: Lifetime Achievment Award

  • Date Submitted: 08/26/2012 06:03 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 69.8 
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            Good evening. Tonight I am thrilled. In fact, I am honored to present this award in honor of the life of an astonishing woman who changed the course of history forever. Many knew her for her undying determination for what she thought was right, or that violent temper of hers that often helped her find her way into trouble, or maybe it was that golden voice that “made change fall out of peoples’ pockets” as some critics say. We know her as “the Empress of Blues”, “the Original Black Diva” and Mrs. Bessie Smith.

            Although Bessie was fabulously wealthy, bringing in almost $2,000 per week at the height of her fame, she was born into poverty in Chattanooga, Tennessee. African Americans were so poorly thought of at the time, no one bothered to record her date of birth, although, many recognize it as April 15, 1894. She grew up in a large, impoverished family and times were hard, especially after her father died and her mother later passed when Bessie was 8. But her story was no “rags to riches” tale of romance and good fortune. Bessie worked hard and was well deserving of the title she earned.

            At the mere age of 9, Bessie and her brother Andrew spent most of their days as street performers. She would dance and sing while he accompanied with guitar, and even then little Bessie was able to completely mesmerize a crowd. Another of her brothers, Clarence, worked for the Moses Stoke’s Show and arranged for Bessie’s first audition. This is where her career began. Bessie started playing shows everywhere she was accepted, and was tutored by the blues singer Ma Rainey. Due to the extremely dark color of her skin, it was not uncommon for Bessie to be kicked out of shows or poorly treated. But it’s her determination and will to overlook these setbacks that helped her rise to the top.

            In 1920, Bessie began to record and rise to stardom. It all started when Frank Walker of Columbia Records brought Bessie up to New York to try...


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