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Bessie Smith

by Jackie Kay

Paperback £9.99
Published 18th February 2021, 224 pages
Signed by the author £9.99
Signed by the author
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Description

A BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK Bessie Smith: singer, icon, pioneer. Scotland’s National Poet Jackie Kay brings to life the tempestuous story of the greatest blues singer who ever lived. ‘A gem of a book … beautiful.’ BERNARDINE EVARISTO ‘A wonderful writer on a magnificent singer.’ ROBERT WYATT ‘Kay’s book is the amplifier that Smith’s voice deserves.’ SUNDAY TIMES ‘The most vivid evocation of Bessie Smith I have ever read.’ IAN CARR, BBC MUSIC BESSIE SMITH was born in Tennessee in 1894. Orphaned by the age of nine, she sang on street corners before becoming a big name in travelling shows. In 1923 she made her first recording for a new start-up called Columbia Records. It sold 780,000 copies and made her a star. Smith’s life was notoriously difficult: she drank pints of ‘bathtub gin’, got into violent fist fights, spent huge sums of money and had passionate love affairs with men and women. She once single-handedly fought off a cohort of the Ku Klux Klan. As a young black girl growing up in Glasgow, Jackie Kay found in Bessie someone with whom she could identify and who she could idolise. In this remarkable book Kay mixes biography, fiction, poetry and prose to create an enthralling account of an extraordinary life. ‘Biographies don’t usually bring the subject to life again. This one did. I finished the book then started it again immediately.’ PEGGY SEEGER ‘What a life! What gulpable storytelling! Exactly the kind of writing about music we need: personal, ardent, playfully confrontational, questioning, undogmatic. A love song to a complicated idol.’ KATE MOLLESON ‘Pure joy: one trailblazing woman pays tribute to another. Jackie Kay finds the music in the short, dazzling, capricious life of Bessie Smith.’ HELEN LEWIS

Details

Bessie Smith
by Jackie Kay

ISBN
9780571362929

Publisher
Faber & Faber

Binding
Paperback

Publication date
Feb. 18, 2021

Dimensions
19.8cm x 12.9cm x 1.3cm

Page count
224 pages