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Mamie Smith

Background information
Birth name Mamie Robinson
Born May 26, 1883(1883-05-26)
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died September 16, 1946 (aged 63)
New York, New York, United States
Genres Jazz
Occupations Actress, dancer, singer
Instruments Vocalist

Mamie Smith (May 26, 1883 – September 16, 1946) was an American vaudeville singer, dancer, pianist and actress, who appeared in several motion pictures late in her career. As a vaudeville singer she performed a number of styles including jazz and blues. She entered blues history by being the first African American to make vocal blues recordings in 1920.

Contents

Musical career

On August 10, 1920, in New York, Smith recorded a set of songs all written by seasoned songwriter Perry Bradford including "Crazy Blues" and "It's Right Here For You (If You Don't Get It, 'Tain't No Fault of Mine)". These were the first recordings of vocal blues by an African American singer, and the record became an explosive best seller, selling a million copies in one year. To the surprise of record companies, large numbers of the record were purchased by African-Americans, a market the record industry had hitherto neglected. "Crazy Blues" in particular was noted as a distinctively "colored" number performed by a "colored" performer. Because of the historical significance of "Crazy Blues", it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994[1] and in 2005 was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress.

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Although other African-Americans had been recorded earlier, such as George W. Johnson in the 1890s, they were all black artists, who had a substantial following with European-American audiences. The success of Smith's record prompted record companies to seek to record other female blues singers and started the era of what is now known as classic female blues. It also opened up the record industry to recordings by and for African Americans in other genres.

Mamie Smith on the sleeve of volume 1 of the Complete Recorded Works reissue collection

Mamie Smith continued to make a series of popular recordings for Okeh throughout the 1920s. She also made some records for Victor. She toured the United States and Europe with her band "Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds" as part of "Mamie Smith's Struttin' Along Review".[2] She was billed as "The Queen of the Blues". This billing of Mamie Smith was soon one-upped by Bessie Smith, who called herself "The Empress of the Blues".

Film career and later years

Mamie Smith appeared in an early sound film, Jail House Blues, in 1929. She retired from recording and performing in 1931. She returned to performing in 1939 to appear in the motion picture Paradise in Harlem produced by her husband Jack Goldberg. She appeared in further films, including Mystery in Swing, Sunday Sinners (1940), Stolen Paradise (1941), Murder on Lenox Avenue (1941), and Because I Love You (1943). She died in late 1946, in New York.

Notes

  1. ^ Grammy Hall of Fame
  2. ^ Kernfeld, Barry Dean (2002). "Mamie Smith". The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd edition, vol. 3 ed.). London: MacMillan. pp. 615. ISBN 1561592846.  

External links

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