Tennessee Music Pathways unveils marker for Bessie Smith

It will be located at the Cultural Center in Chattanooga named for the Empress of the Blues

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The “Empress of the Blues,” Chattanooga’s very own Bessie Smith, received another honor. This one is a state honor.

Smith became the newest honoree as part of the Tennessee Music Pathways.

Smith’s music wasn’t just from the 1920’s and 30’s. She influenced jazz, R & B, and even hip-hop in the late 80’s to mid 90’s.

Her granddaughter and great-grandson were on hand taking part in the event, and Smith’s family knows her music wasn’t just entertainment. It was personal.

Beverly Clarke Granddaughter of Bessie Smith

“You can’t sing the blues unless you lived the blues, and she lived the blues. She had some hard lot in life, hard knocks. Some very hard knocks, but she always got up and continued to fight.”

One of the members on the board for the state tells News 12 that Smith would have been honored earlier if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic.

The board is considering other Chattanooga artists to honor in the future, including Usher.

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