Macabre Media: Bessie Smith – her music, her (wild) story, her grave and Janis Joplin


It’s nearly midnight on Monday and I’m tired. It was an up and down day.

The FANTASTIC news is that my son came home foot-sore, worn out, and happy after working his first-ever shift, at his first-ever job, which he bagged by the end of his first-ever interview. (He now works at a coffee shop. Is the word barista gender-specific?)

The bad news is that I had a rough day at my own job, at the paranormal hotel. II can’t believe I’m about to say this, but: I had prostitute troubles. (Apparently morning-drama will ensue if the night-guy accidentally puts two working girls directly across the hall from each other.)

Tomorrow I have to spend the day taking my mother to the doctor. Tonight, I just want to crash. Luckily, I had this post pretty much ready to go:


I just ran across an interesting video on YouTube that I wanted to share.

Jazz and blues musician, Bessie Smith died in 1937, after an automobile accident, at the age of 43. Though she was past the peak of  her career, she was not poor nor forgotten. Her funeral was elaborate and well-attended. Even so, her grave went unmarked until 1970 — reputedly, because her manager / husband repeatedly pocketed the money for her memorial.

In 1970, Janis Joplin (who idolized Smith) and Juanita Green (a long-time employee of the Smith family, and the president of the North Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP) arranged for Smith’s grave to be marked with this headstone:

grave Bessie Smith

 Gravestone image from Find A Grave


I admit this is kind of an unusual entry in the Macabre Media set of posts. It seems like this feature is in a constant state of change. For the “later” portion of this post, I’m going to stay on topic instead of highlighting an upcoming attraction, like I have been doing in recent weeks.

I want to keep you focused, and strongly encourage you to read the first of the articles I’ve listed below. There’s some fascinating information in there about not only Bessie Smith, but about a cultural phenomena of the prohibition era known as “buffet flats”, which were black-owned speakeasies.

From Bessie Smith: Music’s Original, Bitchinest Bad Girl:

[Buffet flats] provided food and lodging for traveling African-Americans — barred from segregated hotels — plus a freewheeling buffet of booze, drugs, hookers and sex shows. All in private apartments, or “flats.”


Huffington Post: Bessie Smith: Music’s Original, Bitchinest Bad Girl – an R-rated exploration of Smith’s wild lifestyle and controversies surrounding her life and death. Bessie Smith – a short written bio and and 3-minute video which features clips of Smith singing.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Bessie Smith biography – a respectful catalog of Smith’s musical contributions, plus basic biographical information.

Mount Lawn Cemetery
Sharon Hill
Delaware County
Pennsylvania, USA
Plot: Section C Lot 26 Grave 3