The definitive biography of musical legend Bessie Smith: “A landmark in the writing of jazz history . . . First-rate” (The Washington Post).
Known as the “Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith was a successful vaudeville entertainer who became the highest paid African American performer of the Roaring Twenties. This revised and expanded biography debunks many of the myths that have circulated since her untimely death in 1937.
Writing with insight and candor about the singer’s personal life and career, the author supplements his research with dozens of interviews with her relatives, friends, and associates—in particular Ruby Walker Smith, a niece by marriage who toured with Bessie for over a decade. Also included in this updated edition are more details of Bessie’s early years, new interview material, and a chapter devoted to events and responses that followed the book’s original publication.
“The product of painstaking research . . . Devastating, provocative, and enlightening.” —Los Angeles Times