Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, Reigns Again Off Broadway
Janis Joplin paid for the blues legend's tombstone; Miche Braden brings her back to life.
Miche Braden has been channeling Bessie Smith for over a decade. Now she's bringing her show, The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith, to the St. Luke's Theater Off Broadway, set to open June 22.
Braden, who also crafted the musical arrangements, plays the blues diva and sings over a dozen of her classics from the 1920s and '30s accompanied by a group of top musicians including Jim Hankins, her uncle, on bass. It's the singer's second collaboration with director Joe Brancato; earlier, they created Lady Day, about Billie Holiday. Though Braden says "it's basically my own concept of the music," audiences could be excused for feeling a shiver of recognition, as Bessie Smith's always full-on voice seems to pour unfiltered out of Braden.
When Smith died after a car accident in 1937 at the age of 43 (or 45 - birth records aren't definitive) she left a powerful legacy, but it took a third of a century and the initiative of Janis Joplin to erect a tombstone for Joplin's idol in 1970. Nineteen years later Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an "early influence." Joplin, long dead herself, joined Smith there in 1985, having once said Bessie Smith "showed me the air and taught me how to fill it."
But to experience the soul of Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, you needn't go back to her ancient, scratchy recordings or listen to singers she influenced. Starting in June, a trip to 46th Street will do the trick.
Share this story About the author Related Tags
Connect With The Morton Report
- Prince Harry and James Hewitt Myth Revisted
- Who Does Prince Harry Look Like? James Hewitt Myth Debunked
- Pattie Boyd: Rock's Most Beautiful Muse
- Spartacus: Vengeance's Ellen Hollman: Hero In the Making
- Lost Girl's Anna Silk, Kris Holden-Ried, and Ksenia Solo Stop By For a Chat
- Why Former Bachelor, Navy Doctor Andy Baldwin Isn't Capable of Ever Settling Down!
- Q & A with Ghost Hunters' Jason Hawes
- My Face Lift (Not): The Magic of Facial Exercise
- Dustin Clare Returns as Gannicus in Spartacus: Vengeance
- Everything Happens at Once for Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Lisa Vanderpump
- Chaz Lipp, Music, Movies, Interviews
- Steve Eramo, Sci-Fi
- Margaret Holder, Royal Family
- Matt Rowe, Music News, Reviews
- Al Kooper, New Music for Old People
- Bill Bentley, Bentley's Bandstand
- Nancy Perkins
- Michael Simpson, Home Entertainment Tech
- Jim Curtis, Books
- Bill Baker, Comics
- Bridget Fonger, Weight Loss and Relationship Advice
- Roberta Cruger, Television