Queen Latifah plays blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO movie Bessie. Frank Masi/Courtesy of HBO hide caption

toggle caption Frank Masi/Courtesy of HBO
In HBO's 'Bessie,' Queen Latifah Stars As Empress Of The Blues
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/406453568/407304676" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Bessie Smith, "The Empress of the Blues," gave voice the listeners' tribulations and yearnings of the 1920s and '30s. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

toggle caption Bettmann/Corbis
The Mythic Power Of Bessie Smith
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/165588944/165589280" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Bessie Smith, shown here ca. 1935, remained an active performer until her sudden death at age 43. Three Lions/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Three Lions/Getty Images
Bessie Smith: 'Blues Empress'
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90206287/90223883" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Writer and Producer Chris Albertson
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1315822/1315823" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Bessie Smith: 'The Essential Bessie Smith'
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4176998/150876962" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

American singer Bessie Smith, known as the Empress of the Blues, circa 1935. Three Lions/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Three Lions/Getty Images
'St. Louis Blues'
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1069234/18712551" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">