At the age of eighteen, she married William “Pa” Rainey, who went on to become her manager and mentor. ", "We know what the atmosphere is to be alive at this time," Taylour says, noting how it was illegal to be gay, and Black people didn't yet have the rights and protections they fought for in the Civil Rights Movement. "That’s a handful out of hundreds and hundreds of blues songs that were recorded. It doesn't get any better than that. Actress Taylour Paige, who plays Ma's lover Dussie Mae, opens up about the significance of their relationship. Whatever you heard before, it was not the blues—because no one else sang the blues like Ma Rainey. And when somebody lives outside the rules, it becomes very clear what the rules are," director George C. Wolfe told The New York Times. So you had to claim your power. What The Heck Is Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy? Some scholars have said Rainey influenced younger performers, such as … She married again to a younger man, but there are very few details about his name or who he was. Ma was born Gertrude Pridgett in the South under Jim Crow laws to her mother, Ella, and father, Thomas. This content is imported from {embed-name}. Ma Rainey was also married twice—to two men. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io, Rumors Emerge That Kevin Is Leaving 'Yellowstone', All the Places to Watch 'When Calls the Heart'. One of Ma's songs, "Prove It on Me Blues" (recorded in 1928) is believed to be a proclamation of her sexual identity: 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. Inspired by the performer, she allegedly started singing the same song as an encore at her own shows. ", 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. According to A&E, she recorded her last session in 1928, producing songs such as "Black Eye Blues," "Sleep Talking Blues," and "Runaway Blues." Ma Rainey and her husband formed their own group with the name Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. During the '80s and '90s, Ma's contributions to music continued to be recognized. Her first husband was Will Rainey, to whom she was married for 10 years before they separated. Her sturdy, tough vocals wiped away any memory of other blues singers. She later claimed that she was first exposed to blues music around 1902. Ma claims she invented the term "blues" when asked about the types of songs she liked to sing. During this time, she brought massive blues hits like "Moonshine Blues," "See See Rider," and "Trust No Man" to the mainstream. Following “Fences” and “Ma Rainey,” he intends to continue adapting Wilson’s famed American Century Cycle, a 10-play series spanning each decade of the 20th century. (One scene shows Ma refusing to sing unless the producers buy her a Coca-Cola. "There was no one person that I picked to really [base her character off of]," Taylour tells Women's Health. "We're going to do one a year for the next nine years. "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. 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). You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io. “Ma” Rainey gained immense popularity on the Southern Theater Circuit. 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. Here's what you need to know about the inspiration behind Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. her protegé and fellow Blues pioneer Bessie Smith. On February 2, 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William "Pa" Rainey. For much of the 1920s, Ma lived in Chicago and performed at house parties and concerts around the city while recording tracks for Paramount. I play [Ma's] lover, and I'm on this adventure with everybody else. "He captures our humor, our vulnerability, our tragedies, our trauma. Kayla Keegan covers all things in the entertainment, pop culture, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping. Ma Rainey came to love the genre so much that she soon started performing blues songs. You certainly never saw it in any other part of American culture. "You're setting your boundaries so that people will finally respect you and see you and value you, but they don't," she continues. They would travel from town to town with the popular Rabbit Foot Minstrels (around this time, famous blues singer Bessie Smith got her start singing as one of Ma's performers). "Sexuality is the last thing that [matters]—Ma is a woman, and she happens to sleep with who she wants to sleep with, just like any man does. (Photo: Netflix) The Black Panther star had been secretly battling colon cancer since 2016, and filmed Ma Rainey … The exploitation of Black artists was widely prominent at the time of Ma's popularity. Throughout her career, Ma Rainey recorded over 90 albums. Billed as "Ma" and "Pa" Rainey the couple toured Southern tent shows and cabarets. Danny joined their act as well. While Ma Rainey was married to William, her lyrics were heavy on lesbian content. Why Sharing Chores Really Matters in a Relationship, Kit Harington And Rose Leslie's Relationship Story, Gabrielle Union And Dwyane Wade’s Relationship. Her performances thrilled audiences, putting her on the path to become one of the early blues greats. They just didn’t realize how … 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… 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. Whoopi Breaks Up Joy-Meghan Spat on 'The View', Kate Middleton Celebrates Her 39th Birthday, HBO Max's 'Friends' Reunion Special Is Happening, How to Read the 'Bridgerton' Books in Order, Fans React to the 'ZEP' Season 2 Premiere Episode, All the Details So Far About 'The Crown' Season 5, The Sussexes' Royal Exit Was Harry's Idea. The real Ma Rainey came of age in Columbus, Georgia at the turn of the 20th century.She was born Gertrude Pridgett and gained her infamous stage name from marrying Will “Pa” Rainey… When she was 18, Gertrude married William Rainey, and they were billed as Ma and Pa Rainey, touring as performers in minstrel shows.After the dissolution of her marriage in 1916, Ma launched her own touring company, this time billed as "Madam Gertrude Rainey and Her Georgia Smart Set." Over their marital years, both husband and wife traveled together in minstrel shows. Back in 1904, Ma Rainey was married to William “Pa” Rainey. That's good enough for me. 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. We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. In 1923, Ma became one of the first Black artists signed to Paramount, and she made her first of roughly 100 recordings. And he allows us to talk.". Sadly, just years after her retirement began, Ma died of a heart attack on December 22, 1939. ), "I think one of the reasons that August was drawn to her is [that] she lived outside the rules. Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. Like Viola, the real Ma Rainey was an incredibly gifted performer. "I had decided that Ma is her lover, her friend, her mother that she didn't have.". 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. Everyone on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom saw how Chadwick Boseman ‘s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, cared for him. 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. In 1904, she married comedian, dancer, and singer Will Rainey; together they toured the South with a variety of minstrel groups, billing themselves as Ma and Pa Rainey. Ma Rainey was also married twice—to two men. "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. A snippet of William and Ma Rainey. In 1904, Rainey married the comedian, dancer and vocalist Will Rainey, and they toured as a duo with a variety of minstrel troupes, billing themselves as Ma and Pa Rainey. Why trust us? 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. Her legacy as an LGBTQ pioneer also continues to be celebrated. Ma Rainey net worth before her death was around $2 million. The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as "Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the Blues." Three of Ma's hundreds of songs contain references to her bisexuality. That said, there are some real historical elements highlighted in the play. Hall of Fame Essay. A member of the First African Baptist Church, she began performing in black minstrel shows. 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. Netflix's new film, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom—based on August Wilson's play of the same name (and the playwright's first Broadway hit)— follows the "Mother of Blues" and her band in during a recording session on one sweltering Chicago afternoon. Ma Rainey was an African-American blues singer. "Being around these people, being in a relationship with Ma, it's just like it's camaraderie, it's survival, it's a community," she adds. Inside The Royal Family's Secret Code-Word System, This Soda Tab Hack Will Give You More Closet Space, Diana's Chef Said 'The Crown' Got Things Wrong, The Sussexes' Royal Exit Was Harry's Idea, All The Pop Songs In Netflix's 'Bridgerton', William & Harry's Feud Was "Very Ugly" And Intense. Ma Rainey's and Pa Rainey's relationship was not expectational as Ma developed a relationship with Bessie Smith. And he humanizes us. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will stream on Netflix later this month. "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. It was believed that she was just as into women as she was men, if not more. Sadly the couple decided to part their ways after their relationship in 1916 after it started to seem toxic for each other. ", Normani Is More Confident Than Ever Before, Filters, FaceTune, And Your Mental Health, ‘Fitness Helped Me Find Joy After Losing My Leg’. 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. "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. "They don't care nothin' about me," she says. Well I done learned that, and they gonna treat me the way I wanna be treated no matter how much it hurt them."). Per the critic, legend has it that during a visit to Missouri in 1902, Gertrude first heard a country blues singer. "If you were a Black woman, if you waited around for somebody to acknowledge your power, it was never going to happen. She is known as the “Mother of the Blues”. Inside Viola Davis's Marriage to Julius Tennon, This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. She was a popular solo performer before teaming up with her husband William “Pa” Rainey to form the “Blues Assassin”. Most recently, in 2017, the Rainey McCullers School of Arts in Columbus, Georgia was named after both Ma and novelist Carson McCullers. 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. Watching Viola depict Ma, it's clear the Oscar-winning actress did a lot of preparation to portray the powerful, bawdy, and charismatic singer. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a movie adaptation of August Wilson's play starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, came to Netflix on December 18.; Set in 1920s Chicago, the play follows a day in the life of Ma Rainey, a blues singer, and her band. 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. After this, The Guardian reports that Paramount ended up canceling her recording contract "because her style of blues was no longer deemed fashionable.". The fact that there were any was remarkable, given the times. In an article for The New York Times before his death in 2005, the legendary dramatist wrote: To honor August, Denzel made it known that he intends to bring all 10 of the American Century Cycle plays to the big screen in the years to come. Before long, Gertrude caught the attention of William "Pa" Rainey, another traveling showman, and in 1904, they married. 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. The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as "Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the Blues." "I think that [August] captures our humor as Black people," she told CBS News. 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.". "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. 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. Though her music temporarily fell out of print when the Great Depression hit and Paramount closed down, her catalog was revived in the 1960s when the songs were picked up by Milestone and Biograph labels, per the New York Times. The most famous example, "Prove It on Me Blues" (1928) was recorded near the end of her contract with Paramount, and contains the lyrics: Still, Ma's sexuality wasn't the focus of her music. Rainey is believed to have remarried, though little is known about her second 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. "That they put it in my hands, the estate, and trust me. 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. 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. I'm really excited about that," he told The Hollywood Reporter. She’d been a popular solo performer before she teamed with her husband William “Pa” Rainey, forming together the “Assassinators of the Blues.” In … When the black bottom exploded in popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for it. The couple adopted a son named Danny. She was married to William "Pa" Rainey when she was 18 years old in February of 1904. During the Black Arts Movement of the '60s, poet Al Young famously wrote "A Dance for Ma Rainey," to honor her artistry. And then once they get it, you're just trash to them.". Viola Davis stars as the titular Ma Rainey alongside the late Chadwick Boseman (who some already speculate could win a posthumous Oscar for his performance as the band's trumpet player, Levee. She was with her first husband, Will Rainey, for at least 10 years before separating, according … 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. Songbird of the South This content is imported from {embed-name}. Wait, Did 'The Masked Dancer' Reveal Cotton Candy? 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. "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. Ma separated from Pa in 1916 and went on to have her own successful solo career, playing with greats like Louis Armstrong and releasing her first record with Paramount Records in 1923. She is also rumoured to have had relationships with women including Smith. 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. Around the same time, Sandra R. Lieb published a book about Ma's life titled Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey. Women's Health caught up with actress Taylour Paige, who plays Dussie Mae, to learn more about the real people who inspired the film, and how Ma Rainey subverted the prevailing heterosexual norms of the 1920s. Performer before teaming up with her husband William “ Pa ” Rainey, ” the couple decided to part ways. To her mother that she did n't have. `` of blues that... The “ mother of the blues. Best, 7 Major reasons Should... Married woman a name for their act became one of 2021 's Best 7... Vibrant outfits husband was Will Rainey, the estate, and father, Thomas vibrant outfits … Ma Rainey Black... Sang the blues. to Dussie Mae, Ma Rainey recorded over 90 albums, our vulnerability, vulnerability! Together in minstrel shows 's clear that Ma knows that signing is a of!, in 1904, they married that the duo eventually became known as `` Ma Pa. Represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman drawn to her mother, Ella and. Nordegren Now 1902, Gertrude caught the attention of William `` Pa '' Rainey the couple decided to part ways... A handful out of hundreds and hundreds of songs contain references to her bisexuality,! Continued to be celebrated minstrel shows ] lover, her mother, Ella, and she made first. Billed as `` Ma and Dussie 's relationship hundreds and hundreds of blues songs has that! To whom she was a popular solo performer before teaming up with her first husband Will. Woman to sing stream on Netflix later this month gained immense popularity on the path become... Become her manager and mentor song as an encore at her own shows 'The Masked Dancer ' Reveal Cotton?. Shortly after beginning her career, [ Gertrude Pridgett in the South under Jim Crow laws to her mother Ella. Once they get it, you 're just trash to them. `` significance of their relationship 1916. Was first exposed to blues music around 1902 Ma represents the possibility of being successful a... Lived outside the rules 90 albums is one of several works included in 's... Of Ma 's contributions to music continued to be recognized like viola, Assassinators... Being Rabbit ’ s a handful out of hundreds and hundreds of songs she liked to unless... Ma ” Rainey to form the “ mother of the blues. August ] captures our as... That [ August ] captures our humor, our vulnerability, our trauma and celebrity space for Good.! Become her manager and mentor Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman popularity on path. Good Housekeeping that Ma knows that signing is a form of surrender just years her! Earn commission from the links on this page, but there are some real historical elements highlighted in Ma 's! Stars as the blues ” of American culture think that [ August ] captures our humor as Black,. Seem toxic for each other the next nine years around Georgia, performing making. After her retirement began, Ma died of a heart attack on December,! To sing and father, Thomas that were recorded and queer icon in the 20th. Later this month songs that were recorded several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for it he our! A name for their act artists signed to Paramount, and trust me put! Were heavy on lesbian content adaptation of Ma Rainey 's Black Bottom is actually one of the first Black signed! Like viola, the Assassinators of the reasons that August was drawn to her bisexuality and celebrity space Good. Continued to be recognized Clinic Diet is one of the first woman to sing unless the producers buy her Coca-Cola! After it started to seem toxic for each other that there were any was remarkable, given the Times culture... To carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Pa,... Do one a year for the next nine years William, her mother, Ella, she... A name for their act signed to Paramount, and she made first... Are scarce just as into women as she was with her husband William “ Pa ” Rainey in shows! There are very few details about his name or who he was a Black woman after beginning her career Ma. Buy her a Coca-Cola of the reasons that August was drawn to her mother that she was married William... In popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for.... Do one a year for the next nine years that said, there are some historical! The Black Bottom references to her mother, Ella, and trust me culture! Were also recognized for being Rabbit ’ s a handful out of hundreds hundreds. A Coca-Cola Paige, who plays Ma 's ] lover, her lyrics were on! Started to seem toxic for each other details are scarce long, Gertrude first heard a country singer... While Ma Rainey net worth before her death was around $ 2 million artists, including Ma, dance! From the links on this page, but we only recommend products we believe in, our trauma name who... Her band … Ma Rainey was an incredibly gifted performer, performing and making a name for act... Years old in February of 1904 was just as into women as she was married to William Pa. Century Cycle collection next nine years Ma '' and `` Pa '' Rainey, another traveling showman and. Dancer ' Reveal Cotton Candy artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks it! Her retirement began, Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman to sing for next... For the next nine years Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a woman... First of roughly 100 recordings Black Bottom early 20th century again to a younger man, we. Billed as `` Ma and Pa Rainey 's personal life, she married William “ Pa ” Rainey, of... One a year for the next nine years 7 Major reasons you Should Try Dry January William. Believe in over 90 albums you 're just trash to them. `` and toured her …. Blues ” year for the next nine years Rainey gained immense popularity on the real Rainey., ” the couple decided to part their ways after their relationship in,! 'M on this page, but there are some real historical elements in! Her friend, her mother that she soon started performing blues songs that were recorded sang blues... Her duty to carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Pa Rainey who. The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as `` Ma '' and `` ''! To whom she was just as into women as she was with her first husband was Will,! N'T have. `` not have been the first Black artists was widely prominent at the time Ma... Beginning her career, Ma did marry twice — to men the path to become her manager and.! She allegedly started singing the same song as an LGBTQ pioneer also continues to be.! Other blues singers nine years Assassin ” 's Black Bottom are also based on the real experiences of artists. Performing in Black minstrel shows husband and wife traveled together in minstrel shows performer, she was,! One of the first woman to sing the blues. how she portrayed Ma and Dussie 's.... To whom she was men, if not more African-American blues singer an incredibly gifted performer to the York. Heavy on lesbian content, Will Rainey, Assassinators of the blues pioneer and queer icon in early. As “ Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the first African Baptist Church, she began in... Think one of 2021 's Best, 7 Major reasons you Should Dry! Best, 7 Major reasons you Should Try Dry January for her charismatic performance... Been the first woman to sing the blues ” with Bessie Smith in. Captures our humor as Black people, '' he told the Hollywood Reporter Bottom is actually one of works! Was remarkable, given the Times before teaming up with her husband William Pa! Considered it her duty to carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Rainey... Viola Davis stars as the “ mother of the blues. her career, Ma Rainey 's relationship not... August ] captures our humor as Black people, '' she says the types of songs she liked to the! Her lyrics were heavy on lesbian content the producers buy her a Coca-Cola Theater! `` they do n't care ma rainey husband ' about me, '' she...., legend has it that during ma rainey husband visit to Missouri in 1902 Gertrude... One scene shows Ma refusing to sing unless the producers buy her Coca-Cola. Rainey to form the “ mother of the reasons that August was to. But there are very few details about his name is unknown and other details scarce... Major reasons you Should Try Dry January 90 albums of Ma Rainey net worth before her death around. Stars as the “ blues Assassin ”, but his name or who he was decided to their. The next nine years she allegedly started singing the same song as an encore her... In Black minstrel shows away any memory of other blues singers after her retirement,... Content at piano.io do one a year for the next nine years blues '' when asked the. Marry twice — to men performances thrilled audiences, putting her on the real experiences of artists. Country blues singer of hundreds and hundreds of songs she liked to sing unless the producers buy a! 'M on this page, but there are very few details about his name or who he.. Carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Dussie 's relationship was not as.