Composer: Bessie Smith


Occupation: singer

Education: Unknown

Location: Clarksdale, Mississippi

Birth Place: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Marital Status: married

Birth Date: April 15 1894

Death Date: September 26 1937

Status & Notes

Note One:
The 1900 census indicates that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July 1892. However, the 1910 census recorded her birthday as April 15, 1894, a date that appears on all subsequent documents and was observed by the entire Smith family. Census data also contributes to controversy about the size of her family. The 1870 and 1880 censuses report three older half-siblings, while later interviews with Smith's family and contemporaries did not include these individuals among her siblings

Status One:
hey guys I’m singing at the 81 theatre on February 16 1973 at 7:00. I’ll be singing careless love

Note two:
Bessie Smith was the daughter of Laura (née Owens) and William Smith. William Smith was a laborer and part-time Baptist preacher (he was listed in the 1870 census as a "minister of the gospel", in Moulton, Lawrence, Alabama.) He died before his daughter could remember him. By the time she was nine, she had lost her mother and a brother as well. Her older sister Viola took charge of caring for her siblings.

Status Two:
I’ll be singing at the 81 theatre on February 25 1973. My early show will be at 6:00 and I will be singing a good man is hard to find. The late show is at 8:00 and I will be singing baby won’t you please come home.

Note Three:
To earn money for their impoverished household, Bessie Smith and her brother Andrew began busking on the streets of Chattanooga as a duo: she singing and dancing, he accompanying her on guitar. Their favorite location was in front of the White Elephant Saloon at Thirteenth and Elm streets in the heart of the city's African-American community.

Status Three:
My performance will be at 7:00 at the 81 theatre on February 28th 1973