Plans for Legacy of Blues Empress Bessie Smith Blossoming Exponentiallyby Lindsay Guion, Senior Entertainment Advisor to the Bessie Smith Estate, Touts Plans for Broadway Musical, Feature Film, Hollywood Walk of Fame Star and U.S. Postal Stamp Renewal March 6, 2019
New York, NY — The profound and pioneering legacy of singer/songwriter/entertainer Bessie Smith, “The Empress,” is being gloriously prepped for a richly deserved and long overdue turn in the spotlight. A rollout of career-defining projects will make Bessie’s name, life and story as relevant and indelible today as when the artist dominated the recording and performing world’s in the 1920’s. Upon the induction of Smith’s granddaughter, Beverly Ann Clarke, as an honorary member to the board of The Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee – by unanimous agreement – plans are underway for monumental memorials in Bessie Smith’s honor.
These projects – already in development – include a full-scale musical play (i.e. Bessie on Broadway), a feature length theatrical motion picture (i.e. Bessie on the Big Screen), a prominently positioned star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a re-establishment of her U.S. postal stamp, first minted in 1994. All of these works in progress follow the phenomenal success of the 2015 HBO made-for-television film Bessie (starring Queen Latifah) that garnered 24 prestigious industry awards including Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG and NAACP Image Awards honors. Partners in the Bessie Smith Estate include Sony Music Entertainment and Paul McCartney’s MPL Communications (umbrella company for the former Beatle’s business interests).
Before the Great Depression, Bessie was the highest paid black entertainer in the world, collecting as much as $2,000 a week to sing her compositions “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Empty Bed Blues” and more, accompanied by music legends such as Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.
As the sole living heir to the estate of Bessie Smith, Beverly Ann Clarke could not be more-proud of the accolades or more excited for all that is yet to come. Clarke’s greatest dream is for the establishment of a Bessie Smith Foundation that will not only oversee the continuance of Bessie’s legacy but also be a launching space of discovery and support for exceptionally talented singers hailing from Chattanooga, TN where Bessie was born and Philadelphia which she called home. “My goal is for the foundation to establish generous arts scholarships to assist the finest singers and entertainers of tomorrow as they make their generations aware of the greatness of Bessie Smith who proudly paved the way before them,” Clarke states.
Overseeing the implementation of these plans is Lindsay Guion, Senior Entertainment Advisor to the Bessie Smith Estate (as well as Jack Gee, Jr., Bessie’s son). “In this time of Black History,” Guion notes, “it is my honor to represent and push forward the legacy of Empress Bessie Smith – the woman who single-handedly saved Columbia Records (formerly CBS Records, now Sony Music) back in its 1920’s recorded music infancy. The world needs to remember that Bessie Smith was to Columbia Records what Nat ‘King’ Cole later was to Capitol Records: a soulful saving grace.”