A beautiful genre-bending tribute to the larger-than-life blues singer Bessie Smith.Scotland's National Poet blends poetry, prose, fiction, and nonfiction to create an entirely unique biography of the Empress of the Blues.
There has never been anyone else like Bessie Smith. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1894 and orphaned by the age of nine, Bessie Smith sang on street corners before becoming a big name in traveling shows. In 1923, she made her first recording for the newly founded Columbia Records. It sold 780,000 copies and catapulted her to fame. Known for her unmatched vocal talent, her timeless and personal blues narratives, her tough persona, and her ability to enrapture audiences with her raw voice, the Empress of the Blues remains a force and an enigma.
In this remarkable book, Kay combines history and personal narrative, poetry and prose to create an enthralling account of an extraordinary life, and to capture the soul of the woman she first identified with as a young Black girl growing up in Glasgow. Powerful and moving, Bessie Smith is at once a vivid biography of a central figure in American music history and a personal story about one woman's search for recognition.
Jackie Kay is the author of the memoir Red Dust Road as well as several critically acclaimed poetry collections--including The Adoption Papers (winner of the Scottish Arts Council Book Award), Off Colour (shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize), and Life Mask (a Poetry Book Society Recommendation)--almost all of which were collected in Darling: New & Selected Poems. Her first novel, Trumpet, won the Guardian Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for International Dublin Literary Award. A former National Poet of Scotland, she has also written several plays and children's books. She lives in Manchester, England.