Tag: Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith Celebrated with Upcoming “Bessie” Biopic and HBO-Sponsored “Bessie’s 81 Theater Tour”

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Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in “Bessie” (l); Legendary Blues Artist Bessie Smith (r) [Photo via nypost.com]

For some reason, a decent portion of today’s entertainment news is all about Bessie Smith.  Which is a great thing, because the under-appreciated “Empress of the Blues” has deserved her due in the media as well as American musical history for well over half a century.  Thanks to Queen Latifah, who committed to bringing Bessie’s story to life after 22 years in development, HBO will air the biopic “Bessie”, written and directed by Dee Rees (“Pariah”), on May 16.  The movie also stars Khandi Alexander, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps and Academy Award winner Monique as Ma Rainey.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 2.53.04 PMNot only did Good Black News have the great fortune to be part of today’s HuffPost Live interview with “Bessie” director Rees (which you can watch by clicking the link above or right here), HBO also announced its launch of a special two-city event series in New York this week honoring the legacy of the blues-jazz singer called “Bessie’s 81 Theater Tour.”

The event, which will coincide with the New York and Los Angeles premieres of the biopic starring Queen Latifah, will feature a workshop lead by Grammy Award-winning producer Bryan Michael Cox and singer-songwriter Stacy Barthe. The workshop will be offered to local artists in an effort to mimic the creative music process once used by Smith and her peers.

“In today’s music, I believe the constant utilization of live instrumentation is missing,” Cox said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. “Whenever that element is injected into popular music in this era, the song usually becomes a hit. One great example of this is Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk.’”

In addition to the artist workshop, the two-city promotional tour will also feature a music showcase comprised of a series of performances from local artists. It will conclude with a private dinner for native influencers and a surprise performance by an “A-list artist.”

“When thinking about how we wanted to build buzz about the film, we wanted to do something that was completely unique and immersive,” Lucinda Martinez, SVP of HBO Multicultural Marketing said in a press release for the event.

“We’re confident that this event series properly honors the legacy of Bessie Smith by showcasing aspiring songwriters and producers. We want to raise awareness for the film, create connections and offer these young creatives a platform to share their craft.”

The “Bessie’s 81 Theater Tour” will conclude in Los Angeles next month leading up to the May 16 premiere of “Bessie” on HBO.

In the meantime, if you want a Bessie Smith fix before then, we suggest checking out her only appearance on film performing her iconic “St. Louis Blues” below:

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, Good Black News Founder and Editor-In-Chief

West Virginia University Receives Donation of Artwork Depicting Racial Injustice

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Harvey and Jennifer Peyton are donating a series of paintings to the Art Museum of West Virginia University that deal with racial injustice in the 1930s to the 1960s.

Among the works donated is “Confrontation at the Bridge,” a painting by Jacob Lawrence of marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday in March 1965. Other works include “Waiting Room, South” by Rosalee Berkowitz, ” Lynching (Self-Portrait With Rope)” by Louis Lozowick, and “Bessie Smith, Queen of the Blues” by Margaret Burroughs.

Harvey Peyton holds bachelor’s and law degrees from West Virginia University. He stated that “Jen and I have dedicated our collecting to the idea that visual art and the concept of social justice should go hand in hand. We hope these works, and other we have given and intend to give to the Art Museum of WVU, will enrich the idea of both art and community at the university long after we are gone.”

article via jbhe.com

Queen Latifah’s Bessie Smith biopic “Bessie” Set to Debut May 16th on HBO (VIDEO)

Official Still of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in HBO's biopic
Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in HBO’s biopic (Courtesy: HBO)

Queen Latifah stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO Films drama “Bessie,” which is directed by Dee Rees, from a screenplay written by Rees, Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois.

With a story by Rees and Horton Foote, the film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s.

HBO has announced its movie will debut on Saturday, May 16 at 8PM.

The cast includes Michael Kenneth Williams as Bessie’s husband, Jack; Khandi Alexander as Bessie’s older sister, Viola; Mike Epps as Richard, a bootlegger and romantic interest; Tika Sumpter as Lucille, a performer and romantic interest; Tory Kittles as Bessie’s older brother, Clarence; Oliver Platt as famed photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten; Bryan Greenberg as renowned record producer and music critic John Hammond; with Charles S. Dutton as Ma Rainey’s husband, William “Pa” Rainey; and Mo’Nique as blues legend Ma Rainey.

The film will offer an intimate look at the determined woman whose immense talent and love for music took her from anonymity in the rough-and-tumble world of vaudeville to the 1920s blues scene and international fame, capturing her professional highs and personal lows, and ultimate legend.

Described by HBO as a labor of love for the filmmakers, “Bessie” has been 22 years in the making. The first draft was written by playwright Horton Foote. Queen Latifah was approached by producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck to take on the role of Bessie when she was just launching her acting career. She eventually came on board as an executive producer, along with producing partner Shakim Compere.

Director Dee Rees caught HBO’s attention with the buzz around her award-winning film, “Pariah.”

Says Latifah, “I have been excited about this project since the very beginning. When HBO got involved, we were thrilled and we worked together to make something that would capture Bessie’s life honestly and respectfully.”

Watch the telepic’s first full-length trailer below:

original article by Tambay A. Obenson via blogs.indiewire.com

Mo’Nique & Khandi Alexander Join Queen Latifah in HBO Films’ Bessie Smith Biopic

khandi6moniqueMo’Nique (Precious) and Khandi Alexander (Scandal) will co-star opposite Queen Latifah in Bessie, HBO’s film about iconic blues singer Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah).

Written and directed by Dee Rees based on the life story of Smith, the project chronicles how Smith overcame her tempestuous personal life to become one of the most acclaimed performing and recording artists of the 1920s and ’30s, earning the nickname Empress of the Blues.

Mo’Nique will play Ma Rainey, one of the first professional blues singers billed as The Mother of the Blues. Ma Rainey (born Gertrude hbofilmsPridgett) was already well known when she met then-young Bessie. According to a popular story, which has been disputed, Rainey kidnapped Smith, making her join the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, and teaching her to sing the blues.

Alexander will play Bessie’s older sister, Viola. By the time Bessie was nine, both of her parents and one brother had died, with Viola taking care of her siblings. Bessie is produced by HBO Films in association with Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere’s Flavor Unit Entertainment and Lili and the late Richard Zanuck’s the Zanuck Co., with Lili Fini Zanuck, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone and Randi Michel serving as executive producer and Richard Zanuck also getting a posthumous exec producer credit.

article by Nellie Andreeva via deadline.com