Bessie Smith

15 10 2015


Bessie Smith – a new beginning

16 10 2009

This is the beginning of a new series. But I’ll be going slower this time. So these will not be as frequent. Its a series on female jazz singers. I have started this some time ago and this is my &^#%th rewrite. I’m also trying to do illustrations for each so this will slow things up even more. And I am still doing another blog Hallidd which takes up my time. With each piece I will include a utube song from that performer. And so we begin.



Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937)

Life is a room with an empty bed. Where the sheets are tucked in too tight. And the wind is slipping through the crack in the wall.

Born old. At 9. Momma disappeared. With the silent man in the photograph. A part-time Baptist. Some-time preacher. Who taught that God too had his wrath.

Busking. Street corners. In front of the White Elephant Saloon. Her brother, Andrew, laughed at the mourning fools who sucked up the lazy light. Bessie kept her knees shiny. Played a celestial harp. The hardwood floors told their own tale. Sometimes she fell asleep singing Send me to the ‘lectric chair.

The Titanic left Queenstown Ireland for NY. The mayor was there. Bessie married a security guard. On the other side of the lake. She loved Mr. Gee. They fought like cats. Ate the dog. That kept the night awake.

15 young women. Fired by Curtis Publishing. For dancing the “Turkey Trot”.

Something was swinging in Bessie’s bowl. It made her smile. She stuck her tongue inside. Overnight.

Sitting in a bar. Cursing the bartender. His nice white shirt and lipstick smile. Beer in her hand. And a cigarette. And a ragged rage in her voice. And something sweet. She loved a woman from the East Coast.

Almost six feet tall. Almost 200 pounds. A bottle and glass. Between her legs. There must be a man somewhere. With something useful in his hand.

Piano keys. Notes tripping over themselves. I don’t want to see that sun go down alone.

The audience was drunk. Dinner finished. Drinks coming. The band was jumping.  Jack Johnson TKO’d Jim Flynn. In 9. The heavyweight boxing title. Bessie laughed so loud when Flynn cried out. I can hardly stand up for falling down.

Like the levees had burst. Waiters rushing in. Like their tips were on the line. Smoke swilling the air. Lungs doing what they were told. Poetry in her lips. Give me the darkness and the smell of his hair.

Accidents happen every day.

A meteorite. 190 kg. Explodes. 16,000 pieces of debris rain down on Holbrook, Arizona. Gale Storm thought it was hale.

Bessie’s was with her lover. Poor old Richard. The car rolled over. Crushed poor Bessie’s legs. White hospital was sorry. No blacks today. Quota used up.

At the black hospital Bessie was taken in. Poor Bessie was buried anyway. Fans collected money for her tombstone. Her husband, Jack, put it in his pant pocket. The dead got no worries. The living got to take care of themselves.

A new start: The Lives of Dead Jazz Singers – Bessie Smith

25 01 2009


I am going to start a series on female jazz singers. I do have problems with the way the poems come out on this blogg. I try to space words out over the page, like images on canvas, rather than a series of words that play out in your head. (I am very fond of Brueghel, a painter in Europe during the middle ages.) So bare with me as I try and correct any errors that arise. And I may try and get this published (probably self-published since poetry is almost impossible to get published). But I’ll try them out here first.There are some who on reading these bits will take the position that I have misread these women or done them some offense. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are my impressions of public figures and not a writing of historical facts.

Today I begin with a poem about Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Bessie Smith

born old                                                               sitting on a hardwood floor

.                                                                               a glass and a bottle

.                                                                              eyes soft and forgiving

looks at the bartender

nice white shirt                                                 and cigarette

.                                                                               ragged rage in the piano keys

audience huddled around their tables

waiters’ skelter smoke swallowing the air

drinks for my lovely paramour

nothing much                                                                                           on the menu

what does life come to just a room and an empty bed


in a vehicular accident hospital shook its head

.                                                                                           sorry, no blacks today

money collected                                                           for a tombstone

her husband put it in his pocket

the dead got no worries. the living got to take care of themselves.


Born in 1892 to a Baptist preacher. Passed on before. Bessie opened her eyes. She was nine. Her momma gone. Left performing on street corners with her brother, Andrew. Money from suckers. Suckers need their food. Married a security guard. Named Jack Gee. Bessie became the biggest colored star. All the other stars were white. Almost six feet tall. Almost 200 pounds. Sitting on the hardwood floor. A bottle and glass between her legs. There must be a man somewhere. Sitting in a bar. Bartender with his nice white shirt and cigarette. Alone. With a beer in her hand. Eyes soft and forgiving. Ragged rage in her voice. Why does he keep me waiting so long? When he knows I can hardly keep my eyes open. Piano keys. Playing. Everyone else waiting. I don’t want to see that sun go down. While I’m still alone. Oh, I’ll get someone else. If I have to. You know I don’t want to. The audience huddled around their tables. Dinner finished. Drinks coming. No one wants to look anyone else in the eyes. I can hardly stand up for falling. Waiters rushing in. Smoke swallowing the air. My lungs are burning. My eyes want everything to go away. Everyone’s got their business. And I got mine. Accidents happen every day. Bessie’s was in an automobile with her old lover, Richard. The car rolled over. Crushed poor Bessie’s legs. Hospital was sorry. No blacks today. Richard insisted. When they heard Bessie singing, they couldn’t keep their tears away. Bessie was taken in, but poor Bessie was buried anyway. Collected money for her tombstone. Her husband, Jack, put it in his pocket. Let’s get up and dance. The dead got no worries. The living got to take care of themselves.