Pioneering women’s path to the blues spotlight, vocalist Bessie Smith‘s life was cut short at the top of her game on this day in 1937, the victim of a car crash and a contentious white hospital vs. black hospital emergency scene, while en route to Clarksdale, Mississippi. She was 43-years-young.
Known for her tree-rings of soul howl talent, she broke large in 1923 with a cover of fellow female singer-songwriter Alberta Hunter‘s “Downhearted Blues,” selling over 780,000 copies in less than six months. Sales aside, it’s a perfect remembrance of how her tumbleweed-to-parlor-depth croon easily found a place in her time, as well as for countless of women after her, from Billie Holiday to Janis Joplin. Pay mind to her twist of the last verse here and it will all make sense:
I got the world in a jug, the stopper’s in my hand
I’m gonna hold it until you meet some of my demands