Image provided courtesy of Carl Van Vechten
Bessie Smith was one of the earliest stars of the recording era, and the first African American superstar.
Smith was one of the artists who propelled the fledgling "race records" market of music targeted to black audiences that had launched a few years earlier in 1920 with Mamie Smith's hit "Crazy Blues." Through the rest of the 1920s, Bessie Smith became one of the earliest stars of recorded music and a leading figure of what came to be called classic blues (a genre dominated by African American women). She was the highest-paid African American artist working in music and the first African American superstar. Bessie Smith's sound and her attitude, rooted in a distant era, are with us in the 21st century. Read the story of her success...
READ How Bessie Smith Influenced A Century Of Popular Music : NPR