The so-called Mother of the Blues, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey was one of the form's most assertive female artists. She was a true pioneer who openly flouted convention and challenged mores on record and the road, performing at barrelhouses, juke joints, dance halls and speakeasies during the 1920s. If "Prove It On Me Blues" were released today, it may carry a parental advisory sticker for its racy content. Penned by Rainey and recorded with her Tub Jug Washboard Band for the Paramount label in 1928, the song recounts a lesbian love affair. Filled with explicit sexual references, it dares listeners to "find proof" of any immorality or illegality. "Prove It On Me Blues" was also deemed an attack on men, though Rainey was bi-sexual. In one verse she defiantly exclaims, "They must've been women, 'cause I don't like no men." Rainey wrote a number of provocative blues songs with frank, liberated lyrics that sang of her experiences – and sexual liberation was a favored topic. "Prove It On Me Blues" lashed out prophetically against bigotry and male oppression. Rainey and other 1920s black female blues artists decried such hatred and inspired blues-loving rock singers like Janis Joplin to carry on the fight. Rainey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and is among the artists featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Women Who Rock exhibit.
Listen to and learn the stories behind the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's unique app. This app features clips of more than 500 songs, each with cover art, and fascinating artist and recording notes. The searchable list of songs is also divided among decades and artists, so finding and hearing exactly what you want is easy. It's perfect for trivia buffs, music lovers and fans of rock and roll. Click here to learn more!