Ma Rainey was an African-American blues singer. Per Robert Springer's "Folklore, Commercialism and Exploitation: Copyright in the Blues" and History.com, it was common practice for white-owned record labels to get Black artists to sign away their recording rights (and then have white artists release covers of their songs), underpay Black artists, and make it difficult for Black artists to receive the royalties they earned. Who Was Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey's Protégé? Netflix's new film, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom—based on August Wilson's play of the same name (and the playwright's first Broadway hit)— follows the "Mother of Blues" and her band in during a recording session on one sweltering Chicago afternoon. She was with her first husband, Will Rainey, for at least 10 years before separating, according to the New York Times. Her first husband was Will Rainey, to whom she was married for 10 years before they separated. Billed as "Ma" and "Pa" Rainey the couple toured Southern tent shows and cabarets. ... Ma Rainey … You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io. "All they want is my voice. When the black bottom exploded in popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for it. Kayla Keegan covers all things in the entertainment, pop culture, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping. Inside Viola Davis's Marriage to Julius Tennon, This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. "I don’t want to overplay the significance of the three songs that Ma Rainey wrote and recorded that had some references to lesbianism and homosexuality," Robert Philipson, who directed the 2011 documentary, T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s, told Collector's Weekly. Inspired by the performer, she allegedly started singing the same song as an encore at her own shows. Where Is Tiger Woods' Ex-Wife Elin Nordegren Now? But there's a dark side to Ma's rise in the music industry—her inability to read meant that white managers took advantage of her. In 1904, Rainey married the comedian, dancer and vocalist Will Rainey, and they toured as a duo with a variety of minstrel troupes, billing themselves as Ma and Pa Rainey. By 1927 — a.k.a. Why trust us? "But in terms of Dussie, I actually just reached from the bottom of me—personalizing someone who wants to be loved, validated, seen, wants to find a way out, wants to be around exciting people and energy and spontaneity.". While Ma did live in Chicago in 1927, had relationships with women, and traveled with a band, all of the characters in the play — Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige), Butler (Colman Domingo), Slow Drag (Michael Potts), Toledo (Glynn Turman), Sylvester (Dusan Brown), Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne), and Levee (Chadwick Boseman) — are fictional. By the age of 16, Bessie met Ma and started traveling with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, a touring variety show that played to rural populations of the South and Midwest, NPR reports. After separating from William in 1916, Ma started her own performing company called Madam Gertrude Ma Rainey and Her Georgia Smart Set, and she continued to grow in popularity. Viola Davis Stars In The New Movie 'Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom' That Premieres December 18th, 2020 And Her Husband Of 17 Years Julius Tennon Couldn't Be More Proud. For much of the 1920s, Ma lived in Chicago and performed at house parties and concerts around the city while recording tracks for Paramount. "I think that [August] captures our humor as Black people," she told CBS News. They just didn’t realize how … Even during the 1980s, white male performers like George Michael and Freddie Mercury struggled to come out as queer, so it was pretty revolutionary for a Black woman to be singing about queer love in the 1920s. Per Rolling Stone, Ma is hailed as a queer icon for being so open about her attraction to both men and women in her songs, though she never publicly identified as bisexual. What The Heck Is Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy? Some scholars have said Rainey influenced younger performers, such as … Ma Rainey and her husband formed their own group with the name Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Ma separated from Pa in 1916 and went on to have her own successful solo career, playing with greats like Louis Armstrong and releasing her first record with Paramount Records in 1923. Three of Ma's hundreds of songs contain references to her bisexuality. To Dussie Mae, Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman. And when somebody lives outside the rules, it becomes very clear what the rules are," director George C. Wolfe told The New York Times. Around the same time, Sandra R. Lieb published a book about Ma's life titled Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will stream on Netflix later this month. "There was no one person that I picked to really [base her character off of]," Taylour tells Women's Health. ), "I think one of the reasons that August was drawn to her is [that] she lived outside the rules. Per the critic, legend has it that during a visit to Missouri in 1902, Gertrude first heard a country blues singer. The exploitation of Black artists was widely prominent at the time of Ma's popularity. However, Ma did marry twice — to men. In 2004, her hit "See See Rider" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. ", Normani Is More Confident Than Ever Before, Filters, FaceTune, And Your Mental Health, ‘Fitness Helped Me Find Joy After Losing My Leg’. And he humanizes us. Everyone on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom saw how Chadwick Boseman ‘s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, cared for him. The real Ma Rainey came of age in Columbus, Georgia at the turn of the 20th century.She was born Gertrude Pridgett and gained her infamous stage name from marrying Will “Pa” Rainey… You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site. She was a popular solo performer before teaming up with her husband William “Pa” Rainey to form the “Blues Assassin”. 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Reflecting on Ma Rainey's personal life, she was a married woman. Although Viola worried she wouldn't be able to sing well enough to play the iconic "Mother of Blues," after reading the script she knew she had to get involved. So you had to claim your power. Her sturdy, tough vocals wiped away any memory of other blues singers. "That they put it in my hands, the estate, and trust me. Over their marital years, both husband and wife traveled together in minstrel shows. Watching Viola depict Ma, it's clear the Oscar-winning actress did a lot of preparation to portray the powerful, bawdy, and charismatic singer. She was inducted into both the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and honored with a U.S. Sadly, just years after her retirement began, Ma died of a heart attack on December 22, 1939. While Ma Rainey was married to William, her lyrics were heavy on lesbian content. Viola Davis stars as the blues pioneer and queer icon in the film adaptation of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. She later claimed that she was first exposed to blues music around 1902. Her performances thrilled audiences, putting her on the path to become one of the early blues greats. "I just felt like I [had to] honor those that didn't get to do what they wanted to do, or had to live an oppressed, secretive life," she says. "They don't care nothin' about me," she says. "For me, it's just like there are an infinite amount of ways to be a woman and none of the ways make you less than the other, just because it's different than some heteronormative consciousness," Taylour says. Taylour considered it her duty to carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Dussie's relationship. At the end of the film, it's clear that Ma knows that signing is a form of surrender. Whatever you heard before, it was not the blues—because no one else sang the blues like Ma Rainey. "It's like any way out of where I'm coming from is better than what I'm in right now, so I'm going for the ride," she says of her character's motivation. Songbird of the South Women's Health may earn commission from the links on this page, but we only feature products we believe in. She formed the Alabama Fun Makers Company with her husband, Will Rainey, but in 1906 they both joined Pat Chappelle's much larger and more popular Rabbit's Foot Company, in which they were billed together as "Black Face Song and Da… During this time, she brought massive blues hits like "Moonshine Blues," "See See Rider," and "Trust No Man" to the mainstream. After a year packed with Mank, The Trial of the Chicago Seven and Da Five Bloods, Netflix is ending 2020 with another hit original film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. ", The actress explains that she put herself in the mindset of someone whose parents or grandparents were slaves, and who was promised a better life up north. 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