If you're not planning on watching Bessie on HBO Saturday night because of something called "plans," well fine. Just make sure you've got your HBOGo cued up for when you aren't so busy because Queen Latifah as blues singer Bessie Smith is something people are going to be talking about for a long time. Pariah director Dee Rees wrote and directed Bessie, the story of Bessie Smith, a self-made woman and music legend — the "Empress of the Blues," if you will. Bessie was one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and she's got a story to match: One full of family, struggles with addiction, love and heartbreak. Queen Latifah is downright amazing as Bessie, but the glue that holds the whole piece together is Bessie Smith's music.
Latifah provides the vocals in the HBO film, and her renditions of Smith's classics are incredible. But we'd be remiss to enjoy this film and not take a moment to look back at the woman who actually lived this life. From the song that leads one of the most emotional points of the film — "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" — to her foray into cheeky, innuendo-laden ditties — "I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl" is not about visiting the neighbor for a little help while making a pie — Smith's music stands on its own. Even without knowing the full story behind Smith's storied life, this music tells a story, too.
The perfect way to start your musical exploration.
"A Good Man Is Hard To Find"
Integral to the film, integral to Smith's career.
"I Ain't Got Nobody"
Because you can't listen to her music and not include a collab.
"Preaching The Blues"
Some of Smith's later music — still just as powerful.
"I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl"
I repeat. This is not about baking.
This is just a little taste of Smith's incredible imprint on the music world. But hopefully, the HBO film can help us take a moment to look back on this incredible woman's body of work.
Image: Frank Masi/HBO