Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, February 8, 2021

Celebrate Black Queer Voices: Feb 8 - Bessie Smith

The HBO original film Bessie tells the story of Bessie Smith.  The film stars Queen Latifah in the title role and also features stars like Mo'nique and Michael K. Williams.  Bessie Smith was known as the "The Empress of the Blues" and was considered one of the greatest female vocalist of the Jazz Era.  She was probably the most popular blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s and was a tremendous influence on her peers of the Harlem Renaissance.  

Some of Bessie's biggest hits included names like T'ain't Nobody's Business if I Do, Any Woman's Blues, Alexander's Ragtime Band, and Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out.  Her music seemed to resonate with everyone and her music sales and sold out stage shows made her the highest paid performer of her time, quite the accomplishment for a black female. 

Bessie, like several other notable female jazz singers of the Harlem Renaissance had a sexuality that many today would label as fluid.  He partners were just as likely to be female as male, and she made no secret about it.  The HBO biobic does an incredible job telling her story.  You can see the trailer for film below:

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