A Mississippi car accident in 1937 cut short the life of Bessie Smith.
She was just 43 years old. But she'd already established her legacy as "Empress of the Blues" — a pioneering American performer who demanded respect and equal pay in a world dominated by men and controlled by whites.
She'd also achieved a degree of infamy for her boozing, her brawling and her sexual appetites.
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Bhi Bhiman grew up in St. Louis. He played baseball. He listened to Michael Jackson. He watched "Back To The Future." He grew interested in music, and today, Bhi Bhiman writes and sings songs that have an international character.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the package shipped Next Day Air but addressed to the guy who moved out of our house eight years ago is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: deep thoughts on beach balls at concerts.
Margaret H.W. writes via email: "Why do music festivals seem to hand out beach balls to drunk, high 19-year-olds? If I would like to listen to music WITHOUT beach balls, what are my anti-beach-ball options? CAN I DEFLATE THE BEACH BALLS?
B.B. King, the legendary blues musician, died Thursday after spending much of the month in hospice care. He was 89.
Born Riley B. King in Indianola, Miss., in 1925, King began his life on a plantation, where he was born the son of a sharecropper. Speaking to Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 1996, King remembered an early life without telephones, electricity or any outside opportunities. "A lot of the people, including myself in the early years, just thought this was it, you raise your families and you get old, you die, your families take over, kids, what have you," King said.
This week's Drum Fill Friday comes from Guest Quizmaster Hanna Brewer, drummer for the Texas party-rock group Purple. The group is known for its rowdy live shows and healthy sense of humor, and is currently on tour for its debut album, (409).
Brewer, who also sings for Purple, shared a range of her own influences for this week's puzzler, from hip-hop to reggae, rock and pop. I'd give it three drum sticks out of five for difficulty. As always, good luck, careful listeners!
It seemed as if he'd go on forever — and B.B. King was working right up until the end. It's what he loved to do: playing music, and fishing. Even late in life, living with diabetes, he spent about half the year on the road. King died Thursday night at home in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.