The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


Bessie Smith

Induction category: Early Influence

Biography

Bessie Smith earned the title of “Empress of the Blues” by virtue of her forceful vocal delivery and command of the genre. Her singing displayed a soulfully phrased, boldly delivered and nearly definitive grasp of the blues. In addition, she was an all-around entertainer who danced, acted and performed comedy routines with her touring company. She was the highest-paid black performer of her day and arguably reached a level of success greater than that of any African-American entertainer before her. Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1894. Like many of her generation, she dreamed of escaping a life of ...

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