Bessie Smith & Janis Joplin – What’s The Connection?? (This is for my Dad)

“The Empress of Blues” – That’s the nickname given the late, great Bessie Smith.  While most people have no idea who Bessie Smith is – I certainly do!!

My Dad might have been her biggest fan – although later in life he ADORED Lady Gaga, Eminem, Drake and of course his Mozart – my Dad was quite a character!!

Looking back at some of her lyrics, I’m honestly surprised she was “allowed” to sing some of them! They were pretty racy for “back in the day”! I post this in honor of my Dad 🙂

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bessie was one of seven children born to William, (a Baptist minister and laborer) and Laura Smith. Two of her brothers, along with her Mom and Dad died before Bessie was 9 years old – her older sister raised her and the rest of her siblings.  She knew she had a good voice and would perform with her younger brother Andrew playing guitar on street corners when they were kids. By 18 years of age Bessie was performing in various minstrel shows – this is how she came to meet “Ma” Rainey (Gertrude).  There was by then drugs, men problems, booze amongst other issues. Then in 1923, Bessie produced “Down Hearted Blues” and “Gulf Coast Blues”as record executives realized they had stumbled on a new market and over 780,000 sold in a six month time frame! Soon Frank Walker at Columbia Records gave her a recording contract from 1923-31 where she recorded over 155 songs. She even paired with Louis Armstrong for “St. Luis Blues”, “I Aint Gonna Play No Second Fiddle”, “Careless Love Blues” and more.  However, with her success and crazy schedule, she and her husband, Jack Gee split up in 1929 – her drinking was pretty out of hand by this point but she did still have a role in St. Louis Blues that same year.

Bessie Smith’s life would be cut short though by a car wreck on September 26 ,1937 with Richard Morgan, her lover, by her side – not harmed, near Clarksdale, Mississippi. It’s estimated over 10,000 people attended her funeral service.  There have been lots of stories that have now been shown not to be true, that she was left at the side of the road to die as a “White Hospital” refuse to treat her, etc.  While we may never know what indeed would have happened if she had been taken by ambulance to a “White Hospital”, the story has since been challenged and changed to Bessie was sent by ambulance to a “Black hospital” where her right arm was amputated but she didn’t survive past the next morning.

One might think with over 10,000 mourners, that her gravesite would be lavish.  No, in fact there was NO grave stone ever until Janis Joplin decided to pay for it herself along with a lady who had worked for Bessie, Juanita Green and that didn’t happen until August of 1970!!! Janis Joplin was said to have stated it was listening to Bessie that taught her how to sing. She also allegedly said that she (Janis), thought she was Bessie Smith reincarnated – as for me, I think Bessie reminds me a lot of Alanis Morissette (lyric wise).

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!


Outside of That (Youtube by cdbpdx of Cliff’s Vintage Music Shoppe)

I’ve got the meanest man in the land
But his love is that sticking brand
His kiss just lingers on my lips
And thrill me to my fingertips
People say I’m a fool
He’s heartless and also cruel

But outside of that, he’s all right with me
Outside of that, he’s sweet as he can be
I love him as true as stars above
He beats me up, but how he can love
I never loved like that since the day I was born
I said for fun, I don’t want you no more
And when I said that, I made sweet papa sore
He blacked my eyes, I couldn’t see
Then he pawned the things he gave to me
But outside of that, he’s all right with me

I said for fun, I don’t want you no more
And when I said that, I made sweet papa sore
When he pawned my things I said: you’re a dirty old thief
Now, then he turned around and knocks out both of my teeth
Outside of that, he’s all right with me

You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon Lyrics

Looka here, Daddy, I want to tell you, please get out of my sight.
I’m playin’ quits now, right from this very night.
You’ve had your day. Don’t sit around and frown.
You’ve been a good old wagon, Daddy, but you done broke down.

Now, you’d better go the blacksmith shop and get yourself overhauled.
There’s nothing about you to make a good woman fall.
Nobody wants a baby when a real man can be found.
You’ve been a good old wagon, Daddy, but you done broke down.

When the sun is shinin’, it’s time to make hay.
Automobiles operate. You can’t make your wagon pay.
When you were in your prime, you liked to run around.
You’ve been a good old wagon, Daddy, but you done broke down.

There’s no need to cry and make a big show.
This man knows more about lovin’ than you will ever know.
He is the king of lovin’. This man deserves a crown.
He is a good old wagon, Daddy, and he ain’t broke down.



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