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1895 - 1937 Bessie Smith

A "classic" blues singer of power and authority, Bessie Smith has inspired many vocalists in the UK including Blanche Finlay, Marcia Pendlebury and Hope Augustus. Ottilie Patterson's revival of Bessie Smith's music with the Chris Barber Band in the 1950s, was part of the huge following for traditional jazz music in the UK. The late Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was a teenage admirer of Ottilie Patterson's interpretations of Bessie Smith's blues, and got his first lessons in the history of blues music from Miss Patterson. Bessie Smith's championing, through lyrics, of the less fortunate and underpriviledged, together with her acknowledgement of community and political issues, gained her respect from generations, especially of women in the UK, such as Beryl Bryden, Blanche Finlay, Marcia Pendlebury, Hope Augsutus and many others. A feminist in her own time, Bessie Smith stood her ground on race, class and sexuality.

Photo_ Women's Jazz Archive places flowers on Bessie Smith's grave at Mount Lawn Cemetary, Philadelphia, 1994 (WJA Collection)