- Blues feminin
Le blues féminin s'est surtout distingué au début du XXe siècle, entre 1920 et 1929, avec des chanteuses de blues classique parmi lesquelles on peut citer : Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Ethel Waters, Ida Cox, Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, Alberta Hunter, Clara Smith, Edith Wilson, Trixie Smith, Lucille Hegamin ou Bertha “Chippie” Hill. Des centaines d'autres ont enregistrés des albums comme Lizzie Miles, Sara Martin, Rosa Henderson, Martha Copeland, Bessie Jackson (Lucille Bogan), Edith Johnson, Katherine Baker, Margaret Johnson, Hattie Burleson, Madlyn Davis, Ivy Smith, Alberta Brown, Gladys Bentley, Billie and Ida Goodson, Fannie May Goosby, Bernice Edwards ou Florence Mills.
Ces chanteuses de blues jouaient souvent derrière leur orchestre qui se composait généralement d'un piano, de plusieurs cuivres et une Batterie. Ces femmes furent des pionnières dans l'industrie du disque car elles furent les premières femmes noires à être enregistrées mais aussi parce qu'elle furent les premières à exporter un chant basé sur les 12 mesures typique du blues. Sur scènes, ces chanteuses portaient généralement des vêtements élaborés et chantaient les injustices et les douleurs de leur vie, comme celles de leurs spectateurs. Les tournées qu'elles réalisaient étaient épuisantes car elles étaient la plupart du temps sur la route. Lors du krach boursier de Wall Street en 1929, la popularité des chanteurs de blues a décliné. Certains sont rentrés chez eux, ont repris un travail ou sont partis pour Hollywood. Dans les années 1960, avec la renaissance du blues, des artistes comme Sippie Wallace, Alberta Hunter, Edith Wilson ou Victoria Spivey sont revenues sur scène.Fichier:MaRaineyParamount.jpg
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, form Georgia, was the “Mother of the Blues,” and lived from 1886–1939. She was the first woman to incorporate blues into her act of show songs and comedy. In 1902, she heard a woman singing about the man she’d lost, and quickly learned the song. From then on at each performance, she used it as her closing number calling it “the blues.” She recorded over 100 songs and wrote 24 of them herself. “Bessie (Smith and all the others who followed in time), wrote jazz historian Dan Morgenstern “learned their art and craft from Ma, directly or indirectly.” Young women followed Ma Rainey’s path in the tent show circuit, since black performers were not allowed to be in venues. Eventually most singers were booked on the T.O.B.A. (Theatre Owners Booking Association) circuit.
Mamie Smith, “America’s First Lady of the Blues,” was the first black woman to record the blues in 1920. Harlem songwriter/music publisher, Perry Bradford, brought Smith by the Okeh studio to get his songs heard. Sophie Tucker was ill on the day of her session and Okeh allowed Smith to record. They recorded two non-blues songs but were brought back into the studio to record a blues song six months later. All of the recording band members claimed different titles for the song that became known as “Crazy Blues.” The song sold over 17,000 copies in its first month. This affected the recording industry so that hundreds of black female singers began being scouted, booked and recorded.
The most popular of these women was Tennessee-born Bessie Smith. She was known as the “Empress of the Blues.” She possessed a large voice with a “T’ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” attitude. Bessie was a dancer before she was a singer, but was let go because her skin color was too dark. She also struggled initially with being recorded—three companies turned her down before she was signed with Columbia. She eventually became the highest-paid black artist of the '20s, but by the '30s she was making half as much as her usual salary. She died in a car crash in 1937, at the age of 41. Lionel Hampton is quoted as saying, “Had she lived, Bessie would’ve been right up there on top with the rest of us in the Swing Era.” Mahalia Jackson and Janis Joplin both claimed to have drawn great inspiration from her singing. Her work is well documented in print as well as recording with over 160 songs currently available.
Hailing from Texas were Victoria Spivey and her cousin Sippie Wallace. Victoria Spivey was influenced after a Mamie Smith performance to become a blues singer. At 16, she became an overnight success with Okey’s release of her original song, “Black Snake Blues.” She also appeared in the first all-black talking film. She continued performing throughout her life with a brief hiatus in the '50s. She was the only classic blues singer to have her own record label, Spivey Records. In addition to recording herself, she recorded Lucille Hegamin, Memphis Slim, Lonnie Johnson and others. As a songwriter, pianist and singer, she produced over 1,500 songs. She died in 1976 at the age of 70.
- Albertson, Chris. Bessie. New York: Stein & Day Publishers, 1972. ISBN 0-300-09902-9
- Davis, Angela Y. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. New York: Random House, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-679-77126-3
- Harrison, Daphne Duval. Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the '20s. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-8135-1279-4
- Lieb, Sandra. Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey. Amhearst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1981. ISBN 0-87023-394-7
- Placksin, Sally. American Women in Jazz: 1900 to the Present. Los Angeles: Wideview Books, 1982. ISBN 0-87223-756-7
- Stewart-Baxter, Derrick. Ma Rainey and the Classic Blues Singers. New York: Stein & Day Publishers, 1970. ISBN 0-8128-1321-9
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