Ma Rainey, “Mother of Blues”

The “Mother of Blues,” Ma Rainey, was born as Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Georgia in 1886. The first popular stage entertainer to incorporate authentic blues in her song repertoire, Ma Rainey performed during the first three decades of the 20th century. Rainey recorded in various musical settings and exhibited the influence of genuine rural blues. She is widely recognized as the first great female blues vocalist.

Pridgett married comedy songster William “Pa” Rainey. They became known as “Ma” and “Pa” Rainey as they toured Southern tent shows and cabarets. Because Rainey was well traveled by 1905, she came into contact with authentic country blues. Separated from her husband in 1916, Rainey subsequently toured with her own band, Madam Gertrude Ma Rainey and Her Georgia Smart Sets, featuring a chorus line. Rainey earned a reputation as a professional on stage and in business. A great contributor to America’s rich blues tradition, Rainey’s music has served as inspiration for African American poets

Counting’ the Blues

This song is a classic example of a blues song that follows the twelve-bar blues form. The tempo of this song is slow, meaning that it is slower than my heartbeat. The piano marks the moderately slow four beats in every bar. I like the feature of the trombone (?) in this arrangement. The song follows a call-and-response pattern because Ma Rainey sings, and a break follows each line. The vocals in this song are very fluid. I personally do not enjoy this song because it makes me feel sleepy and not-productive. This song kind of makes my motions feel like I am trying to move in jello.

Prove It on Me

The lyrics of the song revolve around a woman singing about her rowdy tendencies, and how she prefers women to men. The ambiguity of her words leave plenty of room to suspect lesbianism in the lyrics. Rainey talks about how she wears collar and tie and wants to follow one girl, maybe a crush. Everywhere she goes she dislikes men, and folks say she’s crooked: yet she taunts them to “prove it on me”. The claim that the song represents Rainey herself was surprising to me: O’Brien mentions that she was married to ‘Pa’ Rainey, and makes no mention of potential bisexuality or homosexuality. Yet some people believe that Rainey was, at the very least, bisexual


One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.