04-15-1894

Bessie Smith

BESSIE SMITH, American blues singer, born (d. 1937); When, in “Foolish Man Blues,” Bessie Smith sang “There’s two things got me puzzled, there’s two things I don’t understand;/ That’s a mannish-actin’ woman, and a skippin’ twistin’ woman-actin’ man,” she wasn’t the least bit puzzled. She was a good friend of the male-impersonator Gladys Fergusson and had been introduced to the world of women-lovin’ women by the blues singer Ma Rainey. Among her many Gay male friends was composer Percy Grainger.

Bessie herself slept with as many female members of her performing troupe as she could. So never believe that the songs an entertainer sings are necessarily true to their own lives. They’re just part of the act, that old show-biz scam.