Rainey’s "Prove It on Me Blues" includes the notorious (and surely autobiographical) lines: "Went out last night with a crowd of my friends. They must’ve been women, ’cause I don’t like
Ma Rainey (April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was one of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. She was billed as The Mother of the Blues.
She began performing at the age of 12 or 14, and recorded under the name Ma Rainey after she and Will Rainey were married in 1904. They toured with F.S. Wolcott’s Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group called Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. From the time of her first recording in 1923 to five years later, Ma Rainey made over 100 recordings. Some of them include, Bo-weevil Blues (1923), Moonshine Blues (1923), See See Rider (1924), Black Bottom (1927), and Soon This Morning (1927).
Ma Rainey was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition. Though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings (due to her recording exclusively for Paramount, which was known for worse-than-normal recording techniques and among the industry's poorest shellac quality), the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. Ma Rainey also recorded with Louis Armstrong in addition to touring and recording with the Georgia Jazz Band. Ma Rainey continued to tour until 1935 when she retired to her hometown, Columbus, Georgia, where she ran two theaters, "The Lyric" and "The Airdrome", until her death from a heart attack in 1939 in Rome, Georgia.
In 1983, Rainey was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Pantheon (January 20, 1998)
Amazon: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday
The author of "Women, Race and Class" suggests that "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday represent a black working-class, feminist ideology and historical consciousness. Davis' illuminating analysis of the songs performed by these artists provides readers with a compelling and transformative understanding of their musical and social contributions and of their relation to both the African-American community and American culture of photos Online promos.
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