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Bessie Smith (1894 – 1937) was an American blues singer widely renowned during the Jazz Age. By the time she was nine, Bessie was an orphan. Cared for by an older sister, Bessie and her brother busked on the streets of Chattangooga to survive. By 1913 Bessie was performing her own act and she became known as the "Empress of the Blues"; she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on fellow blues singers, as well as jazz vocalists.
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