Why trust us? Meghan And Harry Are 'Happier Than Ever' In 2021, Aquarius Season Will Help You Reset And Recharge. 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. Good Housekeeping participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. Sadly, just years after her retirement began, Ma died of a heart attack on December 22, 1939. Kayla Keegan covers all things in the entertainment, pop culture, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping. ", How to Best Alleviate COVID-19 Symptoms at Home, These Reusable Grocery Bags Make Shopping a Breeze, How to Read the 'Bridgerton' Books in Order. Like Viola, the real Ma Rainey was an incredibly gifted performer. rumored relationships with her female dancers and with, The True Story Behind New Movie 'Breakthrough', The True Story Behind 'Mindhunter' on Netflix, The True Story Behind 'The Last Czars' on Netflix, The Haunting True Story of Henry Lee Lucas, The True Story Behind 'The Pharmacist' on Netflix, Of Lice and Men: The Story of a True Classic. In “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Viola Davis looks unlike any character we’ve ever seen her play. Ma Rainey's and Pa Rainey's relationship was not expectational as Ma developed a relationship with Bessie Smith. Chadwick Boseman's widow Simone Ledward Boseman delivered a powerful and emotional tribute to her late husband. Viola reveals her favorite Christmas song, and talks about the moment she realized she was going to be an actress, her mom inviting 40 extra people to her wedding, her new movie Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the late great Chadwick Boseman, getting an amazing note and gifts from Oprah, her ten-year-old daughter's Christmas list, and her husband's birthday falling on December 24th. He was also a singer, and together they toured as a double act under the billing ‘Ma and Pa Rainey’. During this time, she brought massive blues hits like "Moonshine Blues," "See See Rider," and "Trust No Man" to the mainstream. Whatever you heard before, it was not the blues—because no one else sang the blues like Ma Rainey. "They only value you for this one condition, and they don't even see you as human, but they see you enough to take your voice—literally and symbolically. The True Story Of 'Mother Of The Blues' Ma Rainey, This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. ... Ma Rainey … Taylour considered it her duty to carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Dussie's relationship. Women's Health participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites. 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. ", Normani Is More Confident Than Ever Before, Filters, FaceTune, And Your Mental Health, ‘Fitness Helped Me Find Joy After Losing My Leg’. Born Gertrude Pridgett in Georgia in 1886, Ma Rainey first started her career singing and dancing in a local talent show before going on tour with The Rabbit Foot Minstrels. During the '80s and '90s, Ma's contributions to music continued to be recognized. So you had to claim your power. During the Black Arts Movement of the '60s, poet Al Young famously wrote "A Dance for Ma Rainey," to honor her artistry. Back in 1904, Ma Rainey was married to William “Pa” Rainey. Shortly after beginning her career, [Gertrude Pridgett] met the man who would become her husband. "So, when her manager asks her to sign [a contract], she knows her power, she's very, very smart, but she doesn't even know what she's signing," Taylour says. At the end of the film, it's clear that Ma knows that signing is a form of surrender. They started touring together, billing themselves as " Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues," joining up with many different groups, such as the Tolliver Circus and F. S. Wolcott's Rabbit Foot Minstrels. A member of the First African Baptist Church, she began performing in black minstrel shows. In the 1980s, Ma was front and center in pop culture once again thanks to the Broadway staging of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, starring Theresa Merritt as the acclaimed singer (in the 2003 revival, Whoopi Goldberg portrayed Ma). "That they put it in my hands, the estate, and trust me. "They don't care nothin' about me," she says. Ma Rainey was the real-life "Mother of the Blues," whose cabaret-style tent shows in the 1920s South led her to a lucrative recording career. Boseman's role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has people speculating about an Academy Award nomination. And he allows us to talk.". The exploitation of Black artists was widely prominent at the time of Ma's popularity. Ma was still performing in the early 1930s, but after officially quitting show business in 1935, she returned to Columbus, Georgia to run two entertainment venues and participate in church activities. The fact that there were any was remarkable, given the times. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io, A ‘Cobra Kai’ Scene Explains Why Ali Dumped Daniel, Why Carson Daly Objected to Gwen and Blake Dating, Bindi Irwin Posts Pregnancy Tribute to Her Father, The 60 Best Country Love Songs of All Time, How to Watch All the Marvel Movies in Order, 'Law and Order: SVU' Fans Missed This Easter Egg, All We Know About 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4, Royal Outfits That Were Recreated on 'The Crown', See How the 'Groundhog Day' Cast Has Changed, People Think Queen Victoria Was "Planted" by ABC. Inspired by the performer, she allegedly started singing the same song as an encore at her own shows. At the age of eighteen, she married William “Pa” Rainey, who went on to become her manager and mentor. 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. Ma Rainey and her husband formed their own group with the name Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. 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. She is also rumoured to have had relationships with women including Smith. She began her career as a performer at a talent show in Columbus, Georgia, when she was about 12 to 14 years old. Gertrude Pridgett married her husband, William Rainey, in 1904. 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. All of the events that unfold in the Netflix movie — which shows a day in the life of Ma Rainey and her band — did not actually happen quite as depicted. Three of Ma's hundreds of songs contain references to her bisexuality. Women's Health may earn commission from the links on this page, but we only feature products we believe in. Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. With Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo. Rainey exhibited paintings throughout his life, it was a form of marketing which earned him commissions. "You're setting your boundaries so that people will finally respect you and see you and value you, but they don't," she continues. Per the critic, legend has it that during a visit to Missouri in 1902, Gertrude first heard a country blues singer. The couple adopted a son named Danny. Everyone on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom saw how Chadwick Boseman‘s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, cared for him. They were also recognized for being Rabbit’s Foot Company. Hall of Fame Essay. Rainey was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, starting in 1878 with Lyme Regis.Between 1878 and 1904 he exhibited 17 times (showing two works in both 1884 and 1901) at the Royal Academy, and continued to exhibit thereafter, including two works at the Franco-British exhibition in 1908. 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. "If you were a Black woman, if you waited around for somebody to acknowledge your power, it was never going to happen. That's good enough for me. According to A&E, she recorded her last session in 1928, producing songs such as "Black Eye Blues," "Sleep Talking Blues," and "Runaway Blues." 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. "I think that [August] captures our humor as Black people," she told CBS News. To Dussie Mae, Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman. "He captures our humor, our vulnerability, our tragedies, our trauma. The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as "Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the Blues." 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. "We're going to do one a year for the next nine years. According to a New York Times obituary published in 2019 for its "Overlooked" series highlighting luminaries whose deaths went unreported in the paper, Ma was the first entertainer to "bridge the divide" between vaudeville and "authentic Black Southern folk expression." I play [Ma's] lover, and I'm on this adventure with everybody else. Does Height Really Matter in Relationships? ", Instead, to create the character of Dussie Mae, Taylour says, "I just zoomed in on Ma and her world and what it would be like to be Black in America in 1920. ... award for his role in Netflix's Viola Davis-starring Ma Rainey… … At the age of 18, she married William “Pa” Rainey, which is when she adopted the name “Ma.” And, later the couple went on to adopt a son named Danny. "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. Ma Rainey may not have been the first woman to sing the blues, but she might as well have. In 1923, Ma became one of the first Black artists signed to Paramount, and she made her first of roughly 100 recordings. Why Sharing Chores Really Matters in a Relationship, Kit Harington And Rose Leslie's Relationship Story, Gabrielle Union And Dwyane Wade’s Relationship. "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. In his play, August made sure to celebrate Ma's sexuality (including her rumored relationships with her female dancers and with Bessie Smith) with the inclusion of the fictional character Dussie Mae, portrayed by Taylour Paige in the Netflix movie. She married again to a younger man, but there are very few details about his name or who he was. Though, per The Guardian, records suggest Ma was born in Alabama in September of 1882, the singer herself often said she was born on April 26, 1886 in Columbus, Georgia. For instance, the song Ma is seen recording with her band, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," was an actual number written in response to the 1920s dance craze known as the black bottom, which originated in the Southern Black community (and was reportedly named after a predominantly Black neighborhood in Detroit). The 55-year-old actress shared a look at one of her workouts that she said helped get her back in shape after gaining weight to play the title character in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." When Does 'Selena: The Series' Part 2 Premiere? Over their marital years, both husband and wife traveled together in minstrel shows. Chicago, 1927. And then once they get it, you're just trash to them.". And he humanizes us. A recording session. 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. her protegé and fellow Blues pioneer Bessie Smith. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io. Ma Rainey's has an all-star cast, but the majority of the movie is a face-off between Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman. American blues singer Ma Rainey was born Gertrude Pridgett on the26 April 1882in Columbus, Georgia. Songbird of the South Postal Service commemorative stamp in 1994. I asked for Ma and August Wilson's blessing, and I just asked for all the powers of the universe to come into me to lend myself to the story—because it's not about me. 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. However, a key part of the film is Ma's relationship with her girlfriend, Dussie Mae, and what happens when trumpet player Levee tries to steal her away from Ma. In the film, Ma Rainey (a striking Viola Davis) is gathered with her band by her manager to record some of her most popular tracks for distribution. To depict the Black experience throughout the 20th century, August penned a play for each decade — Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was set in the 1920s, The Piano Lesson was in the '30s, and Fences (both Denzel and Viola starred in the 2016 film version of the play) was in the '50s. After this, The Guardian reports that Paramount ended up canceling her recording contract "because her style of blues was no longer deemed fashionable.". On December 18, Netflix released the new film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a drama adapted from a play of the same name, written by late Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson. Ma was born Gertrude Pridgett in the South under Jim Crow laws to her mother, Ella, and father, Thomas. Produced by Denzel Washington and starring Viola Davis, the movie centers around real-life blues pioneer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, on the day that she and her band record a song called "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.". Rainey is believed to have remarried, though little is known about her second husband. Danny joined their act as well. Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. "You're banging on a door, and it's going to lead to something, and you finally get what you think is a key to a door, and you open the door and you're trapped in a closet," she describes. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". 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. We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. Her first husband was Will Rainey, to whom she was married for 10 years before they separated. ", The excellently-cast ensemble film largely centers on the struggle for power between Ma Rainey's blues band and the white record producers who profit from her music. Though Ma Rainey's lovers aren't documented, she was arrested for hosting an orgy with female members of her chorus, according to PBS, and may have had a relationship with her protegé and fellow Blues pioneer Bessie Smith, per Billboard. And when somebody lives outside the rules, it becomes very clear what the rules are," director George C. Wolfe told The New York Times. When the black bottom exploded in popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for it. "That’s a handful out of hundreds and hundreds of blues songs that were recorded. 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. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is actually one of several works included in August's American Century Cycle collection. By 1927 — a.k.a. In the 1920s, there was a real risk of being arrested and jailed for homosexuality, and even this year, there's been a disconcerting rise in hate crimes against LGBTQ people, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Well I done learned that, and they gonna treat me the way I wanna be treated no matter how much it hurt them."). 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. I'm really excited about that," he told The Hollywood Reporter. Her parents were Thomas Pridgett and Ella Allen, and she had four siblings. One of Ma's songs, "Prove It on Me Blues" (recorded in 1928) is believed to be a proclamation of her sexual identity: "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. the year Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is set in — Ma was in her forties and had already made recordings with various musicians under the name Ma Rainey and Her Georgia Jazz Band, including music giants such as Willie "The Lion" Smith and Louis Armstrong. "All they want is my voice. Together, as “Ma and Pa Rainey,” the couple travelled around Georgia, performing and making a name for their act. 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… (One scene shows Ma refusing to sing unless the producers buy her a Coca-Cola. "I had decided that Ma is her lover, her friend, her mother that she didn't have.". However, Ma did marry twice — to men. At the age of 18, she married William “Pa” Rainey and they began to tour as the Assassinators of The Blues. For much of the 1920s, Ma lived in Chicago and performed at house parties and concerts around the city while recording tracks for Paramount. ", 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. "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.".