BACKGROUND STORY Mamie Smith was born in 1883 in Cincinnati Ohio, originally a dancer who joined a troupe called the Four Dancing Mitchells. By 1910, she was touring the Midwest and the East coast with the Smart Set Company. She eventually met and married singer William “Smitty” Smith in 1912 andthey moved to New York where by 1918she made her first major debut in PerryBradford’s musical “Made in Harlem.” She continued her singing career and joined a band called the Jazz Hounds and slowly paved the way for Jazz to become a popular song form as well.
SIGNIFICANCE IN THE BLUES Smith was the first black female singer to record a vocal blues andthereby set the stage for other blues singers like Bessie Smith to do the same. Her song was “Crazy Blues” recorded August 10, 1920 and it sold a million copies within its first six months of release and was extremely popular amongst African Americans.
BLUES AS RHETORICSmith’ssongs are considered classic blues in regards to the content used. She grieves over her problems as is customary of the blues genre and gives a voice to some of the problems many black women faced, particularly in regards to their relationships with men. Her song doesn’t just give a clear indication of grief and the ability to speak out about it but she also decides that she isn’t just going to take everything lying down.
LEGACY Due to the massive sales of her songs,particularly “Crazy Blues,” she became famous and wealthy.Her song “Crazy Blues” is considered to be suchan important cornerstone of history that is was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2005, “Crazy Blues” was also placed in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress to be preserved permanently. Her song and her work provided the groundwork necessary for other blues singers and for other African American singers everywhere. As Angela Davis puts it: “The recording of Crazy Blues led the way for theprofessionalization of black music, for the black entertainment industry, and indeed for the immense popularity of black music today."