Bessie

Revised and expanded edition

Chris Albertson

View Inside Price: $40.00


June 10, 2003
336 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
45 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300099027
Cloth

Also Available in:
Paper
e-book

Out of Print

The definitive biography of Bessie Smith, the great singer known as the “Empress of the Blues”

Considered by many to be the greatest blues singer of all time, Bessie Smith was also a successful vaudeville entertainer who became the highest paid African-American performer of the roaring twenties. This book—a revised and expanded edition of the classic biography of this extraordinary artist—debunks many of the myths that have circulated since her untimely death in 1937.

Chris Albertson writes with insight and candor about the singer’s personal life and her career, supplementing his historical 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. For this new edition he includes more details of Bessie’s early years, new interview material, and a chapter devoted to events and responses that followed the original publication in 1971.

Chris Albertson is the acknowledged authority on Bessie Smith. A long-time contributor to Stereo Review, Down Beat, Saturday Review, and other publications, he has written extensive liner notes for jazz and blues albums and has produced a wide array of recordings, radio, and television programs.

"Albertson . . . gives us a remarkably clear-eyed examination of Smith’s personality (and sexuality) and, more important, of the gritty and greedy music business."—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly

“An arresting story of an unforgettable character and one of the most powerfully individual voices in American music. . . . This probably will always be the definitive account of [her] life and music.”—Choice

“This reissue is greatly to be welcomed. . . . An exemplary biography.”—John Mole, Durrants

"Bessie, Chris Albertson's impressive and important biography, was initially published in 1972. Albertson has now revised and expanded his work, and the result is admirable indeed. . . . Bessie is an important book on many levels—as the story of a life, as the story of a musical tradition, and as a social history."—Joseph Lang, Jersey Jazz

“The most devastating, provocative, and enlightening work of its kind ever contributed to the annals of jazz literature.”—Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

"Originally published in 1971, Bessie remains, a generation later, one of the milestone biographies of a major American musical icon. . . . A vivid portrait of this quintessential American diva."—Will Friedwald, New York Sun

“The first estimable full-length biography not only of Bessie Smith but of any black musician.”—Whitney Balliett, New Yorker

“Readers familiar with Chris Albertson’s Bessie, which had been out of print for several years, will be delighted to learn that this landmark biography is now available in a revised and expanded edition. . . . Bessie is well written and engaging, and has been exhaustively researched. Albertson’s compelling portrait of the Empress of the Blues is essential reading material for all fans of Bessie Smith, and for blues and jazz enthusiasts alike.”—Larry F. Ward, Notes

"Superior. . . . If reading pleasure is measured by reluctance to have the story end then Bessie rates high indeed."—Ken Williams, The Age (Melbourne)

An inspiration for the Emmy Award-winning television movie Bessie (Outstanding Television Movie, 2015)

Member of the 2012 Blues Hall of Fame, as awarded by the National Blues Foundation.