Blues Then and Now - The History of the Blues (Chapter 2, page 2 of 19)


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Chapter 2

She also sang about topics that were commonplace at the time. "Chain Gang Blues," talks about breaking the law and going to jail. "Moonshine Blues," and "Dead Drunk Blues," were about intoxication. Superstition was revealed in "Wringing and Twisting the Blues." "Hustlin' Blues," was about prostitution.

"Ma" Rainey labeled as the "Mother of the Blues," was born Gertrude Pridgett on April 26, 1886 in Columbus, Georgia. At the age of 18 she married William "Pa" Rainey and together they performed with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. In 1905, her blues singing was the highlight of the show. She later became the first black female to be associated with the blues. It was "Ma" Rainey who discovered that Bessie Smith had talent and look Bessie under wing. Gertrude "Ma" Rainey died of a heart attack on December 22, 1939.

For the major part, women were the classic blues singers. The lyrics were invariably taken from a woman's viewpoint. On the other hand, men ruled in the country blues with two outstanding exceptions, they were; Ida May Mack and Bessie Tucker. It was however, the black female classic blues singers namely, "Ma" Rainey, Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, and Chippie Hill to mention a few that brought blues to public notice in the United States. Bessie Tucker sang songs about prison life. Lucille Bogan sang "Low down Blues" about prostitution and lesbians. Memphis Minnie McCoy sang "The Memphis Minnie-Jitis Blues," that had reference to her illness. Later with her third husband Earnest Lawler backing her on guitar recorded "me and My Chauffer Blues" which became one of her biggest hits. It was women like these that took the blues out of the south and introduced it to the northern states, namely, Kansas City, Chicago and New York.

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