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April 26, 1886

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

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey 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 Blue to the Mainstream”| Biography
  • “Who Was Ma Rainey and How Did She Inspire Bessie Smith?” | The Take
  • “Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey” | Jazz Rhythm

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