“Crazy Blues”: The Song that Changed Music Forever
100 years ago, Mamie Smith recorded a creative blues hit song that gave voice to anger at violence against black Americans.
In a report, published in the American newspaper “The New York Times”, the writer David Hadjo said that on August 10, 1920, Perry Bradford and Mamie Smith, two musicians of African descent, went to a studio in New York and changed the course of music history. Smith, who was then a modestly successful singer from Cincinnati, recorded a new song for Bradford called “Crazy Blues”.
The song was a loud, angry cry by a woman driven crazy by the abuse. The song was intended for black listeners across the country, who had been devastated by the violations of ethnic hate groups, police and military forces during what is known as the sinister “Red Summer” of 1919.
The writer stated that “Crazy Blues” was a hit song of unparalleled proportions and left a profound impression on the audience. Within a month of its release, it sold about 75,000 copies, with sales reaching more than 2 million copies over time. The song helped establish the blues as folk art and paved the way for a century of expressing black sentiments at the burning core of American music.
Crazy Blues was able to say things seldom heard in public performances. On the surface, the song deals with the story of a woman who was abandoned by her husband, but when listening carefully, it becomes clear that the song talks about a woman who killed her abusive partner.
As a blues, the song employed the language of internal conflict to tell a story of violence and oppression that black Americans also knew outside the home, in a world of oppression that whites inflicted on them.
In fact, blues music relies on symbols on multiple levels, as the translation of “my man” or “the man” means “the white man” or “the white people”.
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