2001: Bessie Smith


Downhearted Blues:

The Music, Life and Legacy of Bessie Smith


The “Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith was the the honoree for the 6th annual American Music Masters series.  Bessie Smith [inducted 2001] is one of the best known and most influential artists from the 1920s.  During this time, she played to packed houses throughout the South and Midwest.  Her catalog includes over 160 songs, most of which were self-penned.  She played and recorded with a number of noted musicians during the span of her career, including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Eubie Blake and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Ma Rainey.

Tribute Concert at the Rock Hall

On Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm, legendary singer and performer Linda Hopkins and Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Tracy Nelson performed on the Main Stage at the Rock Hall.

Conference at the Rock Hall

On Saturday, December 8, scholars, artists and fans gathered in the 4th Floor Theatre to celebrate Bessie Smith's life and legacy.    Events included a film screening of St. Louis Blues (1929) and panel discussions.  Participants included Beverley Clarke, granddaughter of Bessie Smith; Rock Hall Vice President of Curatorial Affairs Jim Henke; Larry Glover, President of the Cleveland Jazz Society; J. Lanyé, conductor of the Shaker Heights Symphony Orchestra; Margo Bohanon of Cuyahoga Community College and Karen Sotiropoulos of Cleveland State University.

Selected Song List

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    She showed me the air and taught me how to fill it.
    - Janis Joplin