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Bessie: Revised and expanded edition by…
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Bessie: Revised and expanded edition

by Chris Albertson

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A good biography of a fascinating person. Albertson does a good job of giving a rounded picture of Bessie Smith, although most of the interest and vitality comes from the verbatim memories of Ruby Walker, Smith's niece by marriage, who toured extensively with her in the 1920's and 30's. Albertson readily admits that without Ruby there wouldn't be a book, and her words definitely communicate much about Bessie that would otherwise be lost: her rollicking sense of humor, her mood throughout different eras, and what it was like to just hang out with her. Her famous temper probably would have come through, but maybe not how quick she often was to forgive and forget. Albertson's prose seems slightly dated (originally published in 1971, it seems to belong somewhat to an older, less engaging school of nonfiction writing). But it gives good structure and some commentary to the anecdotes related by Ruby and his other sources, some of which are amazing: the account of Smith cussing out Ku Klux Klan members who were trying to sabotage her performance tent, and creating such a formidable spectacle that the men slunk off into the night, was what turned me on to Albertson's book to begin with. There's lots more where that came from, but Smith is never painted as infallible or flawless. All in all, an enjoyable and educational read!
  emily_morine | Nov 25, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300107560, Paperback)

This book—a revised and expanded edition of the definitive biography of Bessie Smith, known as the “Empress of the Blues”—debunks many of the myths that circulated after her untimely death in 1937. For this new edition, Chris Albertson provides more details of Bessie’s early years, new interview material, and a chapter devoted to events and responses that followed the original publication.
“The first estimable full-length biography not only of Bessie Smith but of any black musician.”—Whitney Balliett, New Yorker (on the first edition)
“A remarkably clear-eyed examination of Smith’s personality (and sexuality) and, more important, of the gritty and greedy music business.”—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly
“A vivid portrait of this quintessential American diva."—Will Friedwald, New York Sun
“The most devastating, provocative, and enlightening work of its kind ever contributed to the annals of jazz literature.”—Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times (on the first edition)
“An exemplary biography . . . [with] a gripping, often moving, narrative.”—John Mole, Times Literary Supplement

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:08 -0400)

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Yale University Press

Two editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300099029, 0300107560

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