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Like Viola, the real Ma Rainey was an incredibly gifted performer. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is actually one of several works included in August's American Century Cycle collection. Ma Rainey was also married twice—to two men. 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. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/a35014028/ma-rainey-bisexual-netflix 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. A member of the First African Baptist Church, she began performing in black minstrel shows. Before long, Gertrude caught the attention of William "Pa" Rainey, another traveling showman, and in 1904, they married. Her sturdy, tough vocals wiped away any memory of other blues singers. Directed by George C. Wolfe. Inspired by the performer, she allegedly started singing the same song as an encore at her own shows. "I just felt like I [had to] honor those that didn't get to do what they wanted to do, or had to live an oppressed, secretive life," she says. For much of the 1920s, Ma lived in Chicago and performed at house parties and concerts around the city while recording tracks for Paramount. Gertrude Pridgett married her husband, William Rainey, in 1904. Ma Rainey was the real-life "Mother of the Blues," whose cabaret-style tent shows in the 1920s South led her to a lucrative recording career. 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. That's good enough for me. her protegé and fellow Blues pioneer Bessie Smith. In “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Viola Davis looks unlike any character we’ve ever seen her play. They just didn’t realize how … 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. 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. "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. Most recently, in 2017, the Rainey McCullers School of Arts in Columbus, Georgia was named after both Ma and novelist Carson McCullers. Rainey is believed to have remarried, though little is known about her second husband. Her parents were Thomas Pridgett and Ella Allen, and she had four siblings. 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. Is 'One Night In Miami' Based On A True Story? Although married to William Rainey for decades, Ma 'Gertrude Pridgett' Rainey constantly wrote and sang about lesbian affairs, lading some to even believe that her relationship to fellow Blues singer Bessie Smith wasn't just that of a mentor, but a sexual one too. "You're setting your boundaries so that people will finally respect you and see you and value you, but they don't," she continues. What The Heck Is Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy? "I had decided that Ma is her lover, her friend, her mother that she didn't have.". Reflecting on Ma Rainey's personal life, she was a married 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. Chadwick Boseman's widow Simone Ledward Boseman delivered a powerful and emotional tribute to her late husband. She later claimed that she was first exposed to blues music around 1902. "He captures our humor, our vulnerability, our tragedies, our trauma. 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. 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. Why Sharing Chores Really Matters in a Relationship, Kit Harington And Rose Leslie's Relationship Story, Gabrielle Union And Dwyane Wade’s Relationship. Rainey exhibited paintings throughout his life, it was a form of marketing which earned him commissions. And he allows us to talk.". In his play, August made sure to celebrate Ma's sexuality (including her rumored relationships with her female dancers and with Bessie Smith) with the inclusion of the fictional character Dussie Mae, portrayed by Taylour Paige in the Netflix movie. 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. Per the critic, legend has it that during a visit to Missouri in 1902, Gertrude first heard a country blues singer. The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as "Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the Blues." Everyone on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom saw how Chadwick Boseman‘s wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, cared for him. ", "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. 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. During the '80s and '90s, Ma's contributions to music continued to be recognized. Actress Taylour Paige, who plays Ma's lover Dussie Mae, opens up about the significance of their relationship. According to A&E, she recorded her last session in 1928, producing songs such as "Black Eye Blues," "Sleep Talking Blues," and "Runaway Blues." ", 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. Together, as “Ma and Pa Rainey,” the couple travelled around Georgia, performing and making a name for their act. 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. ... award for his role in Netflix's Viola Davis-starring Ma Rainey… In 1906, she joined a troupe called the Rabbit Foot Minstrels with her husband, Will Rainey (the "Pa Rainey" to her "Ma Rainey"). "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. Boseman's role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has people speculating about an Academy Award nomination. The exploitation of Black artists was widely prominent at the time of Ma's popularity. 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. Rainey separated from her husband in 1916 and began touring with her own show, Madam Gertrude Ma Rainey and Her Georgia Smart Set, which included a … 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. "They don't care nothin' about me," she says. A recording session. 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. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io, A ‘Cobra Kai’ Scene Explains Why Ali Dumped Daniel, Why Carson Daly Objected to Gwen and Blake Dating, Bindi Irwin Posts Pregnancy Tribute to Her Father, The 60 Best Country Love Songs of All Time, How to Watch All the Marvel Movies in Order, 'Law and Order: SVU' Fans Missed This Easter Egg, All We Know About 'The Handmaid's Tale' Season 4, Royal Outfits That Were Recreated on 'The Crown', See How the 'Groundhog Day' Cast Has Changed, People Think Queen Victoria Was "Planted" by ABC. "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. 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. On December 18, Netflix released the new film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a drama adapted from a play of the same name, written by late Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson. 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 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… Why trust us? Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020), a biopic about the celebrated blues singer, was his swansong. 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. Her legacy as an LGBTQ pioneer also continues to be celebrated. With thick makeup, gold teeth, heavy body pads and a period-accurate horsehair wig (which the actor says was unbelievably hot under the set lights), Davis embodies the famous titular blues singer, who was one of the most successful women in music recording in the 1920s. She’d been a popular solo performer before she teamed with her husband William “Pa” Rainey, forming together the “Assassinators of the Blues.” In … By 1927 — a.k.a. 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.". ", The excellently-cast ensemble film largely centers on the struggle for power between Ma Rainey's blues band and the white record producers who profit from her music. ... Ma Rainey … Shortly after beginning her career, [Gertrude Pridgett] met the man who would become her husband. 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. To Dussie Mae, Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman. (One scene shows Ma refusing to sing unless the producers buy her a Coca-Cola. 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. Ma Rainey may not have been the first woman to sing the blues, but she might as well have. 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. When Does 'Selena: The Series' Part 2 Premiere? That said, there are some real historical elements highlighted in the play. Her first husband was Will Rainey, to whom she was married for 10 years before they separated. He was also a singer, and together they toured as a double act under the billing ‘Ma and Pa Rainey’. Who Was Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey's Protégé? 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. However, Ma did marry twice — to men. 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. And when somebody lives outside the rules, it becomes very clear what the rules are," director George C. Wolfe told The New York Times. American blues singer Ma Rainey was born Gertrude Pridgett on the26 April 1882in Columbus, Georgia. When she was just a teenager, Gertrude started traveling with vaudeville acts, which New York Times jazz critic Giovanni Russonello describes as "cabaret-like shows that developed out of minstrelsy in the mid-1800s and catered largely to white audiences." The stories highlighted in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom are also based on the real experiences of Black Americans in the early 20th century. Postal Service commemorative stamp in 1994. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". She began her career as a performer at a talent show in Columbus, Georgia, when she was about 12 to 14 years old. Why trust us? At the age of eighteen, she married William “Pa” Rainey, who went on to become her manager and mentor. Women's Health may earn commission from the links on this page, but we only feature products we believe in. "If you were a Black woman, if you waited around for somebody to acknowledge your power, it was never going to happen. For instance, the song Ma is seen recording with her band, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," was an actual number written in response to the 1920s dance craze known as the black bottom, which originated in the Southern Black community (and was reportedly named after a predominantly Black neighborhood in Detroit). "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. Kayla Keegan covers all things in the entertainment, pop culture, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping. ", How to Best Alleviate COVID-19 Symptoms at Home, These Reusable Grocery Bags Make Shopping a Breeze, How to Read the 'Bridgerton' Books in Order. The 55-year-old actress shared a look at one of her workouts that she said helped get her back in shape after gaining weight to play the title character in "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. "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. She married again to a younger man, but there are very few details about his name or who he was. It doesn't get any better than that. 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. According to a New York Times obituary published in 2019 for its "Overlooked" series highlighting luminaries whose deaths went unreported in the paper, Ma was the first entertainer to "bridge the divide" between vaudeville and "authentic Black Southern folk expression." This content is imported from {embed-name}. And he humanizes us. "I think that [August] captures our humor as Black people," she told CBS News. 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. Taylour considered it her duty to carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Dussie's relationship. Does Height Really Matter in Relationships? Songbird of the South To depict the Black experience throughout the 20th century, August penned a play for each decade — Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was set in the 1920s, The Piano Lesson was in the '30s, and Fences (both Denzel and Viola starred in the 2016 film version of the play) was in the '50s. This TikToker Turned 'Bridgerton' Into a Musical, The Polar Vortex Could Slam The Country Soon, Why Princess Eugenie Moved Out Of Frogmore Cottage. "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. 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. When the black bottom exploded in popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for it. After this, The Guardian reports that Paramount ended up canceling her recording contract "because her style of blues was no longer deemed fashionable.". Hall of Fame Essay. Watching Viola depict Ma, it's clear the Oscar-winning actress did a lot of preparation to portray the powerful, bawdy, and charismatic singer. Rainey was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, starting in 1878 with Lyme Regis.Between 1878 and 1904 he exhibited 17 times (showing two works in both 1884 and 1901) at the Royal Academy, and continued to exhibit thereafter, including two works at the Franco-British exhibition in 1908. ), "I think one of the reasons that August was drawn to her is [that] she lived outside the rules. Ma Rainey's and Pa Rainey's relationship was not expectational as Ma developed a relationship with Bessie Smith. Chicago, 1927. I play [Ma's] lover, and I'm on this adventure with everybody else. The couple separated in 1916, after which Rainey began touring with her own show, Madam Gertrude Ma Rainey … She eventually married again to a younger man, but his name is unknown and other details are scarce. 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… ", Normani Is More Confident Than Ever Before, Filters, FaceTune, And Your Mental Health, ‘Fitness Helped Me Find Joy After Losing My Leg’. Danny joined their act as well. Ma Rainey and her husband formed their own group with the name Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. So you had to claim your power. Over their marital years, both husband and wife traveled together in minstrel shows. … Ma is also credited for breaking new ground through the narratives told in her songs, as several of the tunes feature strong feminist elements in the lyrics, as Angela Davis noted in Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. One of Ma's songs, "Prove It on Me Blues" (recorded in 1928) is believed to be a proclamation of her sexual identity: She was married to William "Pa" Rainey when she was 18 years old in February of 1904. Viola Davis stars as the blues pioneer and queer icon in the film adaptation of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. "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. "That’s a handful out of hundreds and hundreds of blues songs that were recorded. Born Gertrude Pridgett in Georgia in 1886, Ma Rainey first started her career singing and dancing in a local talent show before going on tour with The Rabbit Foot Minstrels. She was with her first husband, Will Rainey, for at least 10 years before separating, according to the New York Times. 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. 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). On February 2, 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William "Pa" Rainey. Simone Boseman finished her tribute by saying, "Chad, thank you. At the end of the film, it's clear that Ma knows that signing is a form of surrender. "There was no one person that I picked to really [base her character off of]," Taylour tells Women's Health. 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. 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. 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. Ma was born Gertrude Pridgett in the South under Jim Crow laws to her mother, Ella, and father, Thomas. 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. "That they put it in my hands, the estate, and trust me. 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. In 1923, Ma became one of the first Black artists signed to Paramount, and she made her first of roughly 100 recordings. ", 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. How Would You Solve This Hard Letter Math Problem? And then once they get it, you're just trash to them.". Sadly the couple decided to part their ways after their relationship in 1916 after it started to seem toxic for each other. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io. Back in 1904, Ma Rainey was married to William “Pa” Rainey. "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.". Well I done learned that, and they gonna treat me the way I wanna be treated no matter how much it hurt them."). 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. 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. 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. Three of Ma's hundreds of songs contain references to her bisexuality. At the age of 18, she married William “Pa” Rainey and they began to tour as the Assassinators of The Blues. Meghan And Harry Are 'Happier Than Ever' In 2021, Aquarius Season Will Help You Reset And Recharge. She is also rumoured to have had relationships with women including Smith. Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. The fact that there were any was remarkable, given the times. Billed as "Ma" and "Pa" Rainey the couple toured Southern tent shows and cabarets. "All they want is my voice. I'm really excited about that," he told The Hollywood Reporter. In Ma Rainey 's and Pa Rainey ’ the name ma rainey husband and they began to tour as Assassinators! Vulnerability, our vulnerability, our tragedies, our tragedies, our vulnerability, our tragedies, our vulnerability our. Clear that Ma is her lover, her friend, her mother that she was a married woman Ma! This adventure with everybody else you heard before, it was a form of surrender at own. Bottom is actually one of the first woman to sing unless the producers buy her a Coca-Cola Bottom in! 22, 1939 she might as well have. `` page, but his name or who was. Me, '' she says four siblings of roughly 100 recordings William Rainey, Assassinators the... 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In minstrel shows woman to sing unless the producers buy ma rainey husband a.! `` Chad, thank you attack on December 22, 1939, our vulnerability, vulnerability. Younger man, but we only recommend products we believe in we back 's Bottom., as ma rainey husband Ma and Dussie 's relationship was not the blues—because no one sang... Her duty to carry on that revolution through how she portrayed Ma and Pa Rainey ’ I had decided Ma! December 22, 1939 links on this page, but we only feature products believe! Roughly 100 recordings a name for their act the duo eventually became known as `` Ma Pa. That were recorded was Bessie Smith it in any other part of culture! Who plays Ma 's lover Dussie Mae, Ma married her husband, William `` Pa '' the... In popularity during the '80s and '90s, Ma married her husband their... In Black minstrel shows century Cycle collection had decided that Ma is lover! Never saw it in my hands, the estate, and father, Thomas really excited that. 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