This is a story/poem about a remarkable woman named Bessie Smith. Watch her performance on St. Louis Blues. It’s like a mini opera. This dwarfs so much of our popular culture today.
It is not as if I have discovered blues/jazz for the first time. But I am just beginning to realize what a great period this was in American culture. Perhaps its’ greatest period.
Just A Room And An Empty Bed
July 16, 2008 by Maynard G. Krebs
Born in 1892 to a Baptist preacher. Passed on before. Bessie opened her eyes. She was nine. Her momma gone. Left performing on street corners with her brother, Andrew. Money from suckers. Suckers need their food. Married a security guard. Named Jack Gee. Bessie became the biggest colored star. All the other stars were white. Almost six feet tall. Almost 200 pounds. Sitting on the hardwood floor. A bottle and glass between her legs. There must be a man somewhere. Sitting in a bar. Bartender with his nice white shirt and cigarette. Alone. With a beer in her hand. Eyes soft and forgiving. Ragged rage in her voice. Why does he keep me waiting so long? When he knows I can hardly keep my eyes open. Piano keys. Playing. Everyone else waiting. I don’t want to see that sun go down. While I’m still alone. Oh, I’ll get someone else. If I have to. You know I don’t want to. The audience huddled around their tables. Dinner finished. Drinks coming. No one wants to look anyone else in the eyes. I can hardly stand up for falling. Waiters rushing in. Smoke swallowing the air. My lungs are burning. My eyes want everything to go away. Everyone’s got their business. And I got mine. Accidents happen every day. Bessie’s was in an automobile with her old lover, Richard. The car rolled over. Crushed poor Bessie’s legs. Hospital was sorry. No blacks today. Richard insisted. When they heard Bessie singing, they couldn’t keep their tears away. Bessie was taken in, but poor Bessie was buried anyway. Collected money for her tombstone. Her husband, Jack, put it in his pocket. Let’s get up and dance. The dead got no worries. The living got to take care of themselves.