April 26, 1886

“I can’t tell my future, so I’m going to tell my past.” Ma Rainey

Gertrude “Ma Rainey” Pridgett blues singer is born.

Gertrude Pridgett otherwise known as Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was one of the earliest black professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to record. The “Mother of the Blues”, she bridged earlier vaudeville and the authentic expression of southern blues, influencing a generation of blues singers.

When a young Bessie Smith joined the Rabbit Foot Minstrels as a dancer, the older Rainey took her under her wing and, it is said, offered help with her singing.

Rainey has been a major influence on black literature and drama. Poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Allen Brown both alluded to her in their works. The August Wilson play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” directly referenced the singer as well. And Alice Walker based blues singer Shug Avery, a character in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple,” on artists like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.

In 1990 she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Bonnie Raitt.

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey – Blues Singer – Associated Links:

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey – Blues Singer – Related Articles

  • “Overlooked No More: Ma Rainey, the “Mother of the Blues” | The New York Times
  • “Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey Forged a Powerful Friendship That Helped Bring Blues to the Mainstream”| Biography
  • “Who Was Ma Rainey and How Did She Inspire Bessie Smith?” | The Take
  • “Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey” | Jazz Rhythm
  • “Who is Ma Rainey? How the ‘Mother of the Blues’ became an Icon”? | Entertainment Tonight
  • “20 Things You Didn’t Know About the Mother of the Blues” | Rolling Stone Magazine
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: The True Story of Rainey’s Legacy” | Time
  • “How Bradford Marsalis Found ‘Ma Rainey’s Sound” | Vanity Fair

“It is hard to define this music, suffice it to say that it is music that breathes and touches. That connects. That is in itself a way of being separate and distinct from any other.” August Wilson

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” August Wilson Play | Google Books

Outside of music, Rainey influenced the writings of poet Langston Hughes, and was the inspiration for the character Shug Avery in Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, “The Color Purple”. via Entertainment Tonight

Disclaimer: This content was prepared by the author in her personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, opinion, or position of their employer.