", 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. 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. 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. 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. 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At the age of eighteen, she married William “Pa” Rainey, who went on to become her manager and mentor. 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. The exploitation of Black artists was widely prominent at the time of Ma's popularity. Like Viola, the real Ma Rainey was an incredibly gifted performer. (Denzel … It was believed that she was just as into women as she was men, if not more. After this, The Guardian reports that Paramount ended up canceling her recording contract "because her style of blues was no longer deemed fashionable.". Ma Rainey net worth before her death was around $2 million. During the '80s and '90s, Ma's contributions to music continued to be recognized. 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. That's good enough for me. In 1923, Ma became one of the first Black artists signed to Paramount, and she made her first of roughly 100 recordings. 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'. 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. "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.". Throughout her career, Ma Rainey recorded over 90 albums. 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. Some scholars have said Rainey influenced younger performers, such as … Ma Rainey's and Pa Rainey's relationship was not expectational as Ma developed a relationship with Bessie Smith. On February 2, 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William "Pa" Rainey. 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. The fact that there were any was remarkable, given the times. "There was no one person that I picked to really [base her character off of]," Taylour tells Women's Health. 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. 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. ), "I think one of the reasons that August was drawn to her is [that] she lived outside the rules. 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. Taylour considered it her duty to carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Dussie's relationship. She is also rumoured to have had relationships with women including Smith. Well I done learned that, and they gonna treat me the way I wanna be treated no matter how much it hurt them."). Her performances thrilled audiences, putting her on the path to become one of the early blues greats. According to A&E, she recorded her last session in 1928, producing songs such as "Black Eye Blues," "Sleep Talking Blues," and "Runaway Blues." The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as "Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the Blues." To Dussie Mae, Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman. 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 had decided that Ma is her lover, her friend, her mother that she didn't have.". "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. Ma was born Gertrude Pridgett in the South under Jim Crow laws to her mother, Ella, and father, Thomas. 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. 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. She began her career as a performer at a talent show in Columbus, Georgia, when she was about 12 to 14 years old. "You're setting your boundaries so that people will finally respect you and see you and value you, but they don't," she continues. "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. Sadly, just years after her retirement began, Ma died of a heart attack on December 22, 1939. (One scene shows Ma refusing to sing unless the producers buy her a Coca-Cola. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is actually one of several works included in August's American Century Cycle collection. 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. The stories highlighted in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom are also based on the real experiences of Black Americans in the early 20th century. Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. ", 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. 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. Ma Rainey was also married twice—to two men. "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. 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. 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. Even during the 1980s, white male performers like George Michael and Freddie Mercury struggled to come out as queer, so it was pretty revolutionary for a Black woman to be singing about queer love in the 1920s. 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. She is known as the “Mother of the Blues”. Why trust us? She married again to a younger man, but there are very few details about his name or who he was. Postal Service commemorative stamp in 1994. She was a popular solo performer before teaming up with her husband William “Pa” Rainey to form the “Blues Assassin”. Her first husband was Will Rainey, to whom she was married for 10 years before they separated. Her legacy as an LGBTQ pioneer also continues to be celebrated. ", "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. Does Height Really Matter in Relationships? 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. That said, there are some real historical elements highlighted in the play. 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). You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io. Danny joined their act as well. And when somebody lives outside the rules, it becomes very clear what the rules are," director George C. Wolfe told The New York Times. Why Sharing Chores Really Matters in a Relationship, Kit Harington And Rose Leslie's Relationship Story, Gabrielle Union And Dwyane Wade’s Relationship. Ma Rainey came to love the genre so much that she soon started performing blues songs. This content is imported from {embed-name}. A snippet of William and Ma Rainey. They were also recognized for being Rabbit’s Foot Company. And then once they get it, you're just trash to them.". ", Why the Mayo Clinic Diet Is One of 2021's Best, 7 Major Reasons You Should Try Dry January. This content is imported from {embed-name}. Viola Davis stars as the blues pioneer and queer icon in the film adaptation of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Around the same time, Sandra R. Lieb published a book about Ma's life titled Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey. What The Heck Is Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy? 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. She was with her first husband, Will Rainey, for at least 10 years before separating, according to the New York Times. 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. 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. The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as "Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the Blues." Ma Rainey was also married twice—to two men. 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. So you had to claim your power. "That they put it in my hands, the estate, and trust me. 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. 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