Right on the very last day, here’s my teensy contribution to Britain’s Black history month. (Do people have it elsewhere? No idea.) Anyway, here are two Black bisexual people that you probably haven’t heard of unless, like me, you particularly like the music of the 1920s and 30s.
So, in chronological order, here’s… Ma Rainey.
Ma – so called as her husband was Pa, and they had a double act, but whose real name was Gertrude - was born in 1886 and was one of the earliest Blues singers. Rainey, in fact, claimed that she had invented the term “Blues” – but that seems unlikely. Anyway, she appeared on stage from the age of 14, and sang the Blues right through the 20s, when she recorded 50 songs in five years.
Among my albums of the 70s, currently in storage, is one called Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues. (If only that were true. But anyway….) And one of the tracks on that amazing collection of feministy, ass-kicking (not a term I normally use, but spot-on here) music is by Ma Rainey. The most famous section goes:
Went out last night with a crowd of my friends,
They must have been women, 'cause I don't like no men.
Wear my clothes just like a fan, Talk to gals just like any old man
'Cause they say I do it, ain't nobody caught me, Sure got to prove it on me.
Ma Rainey, Prove It On Me
Certainly into the girls then – though what she thought of old “Pa” is not known. By me, anyway.
She retired in 1933 – six years before her premature death in 1939 – having done pretty well for herself.
You can buy an album of hers here and if you search around, there are plenty of others too.
A few of the blogs I read have signed up to Elegantly Dressed Wednesday – where bloggers post pictures of gorgeously attired individuals (not usually themselves). I certainly think Hutch qualifies.
Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, born in Grenada in 1900, spent much of his working life as a cabaret singer in the UK. After a short stay in Harlem, and a brief period in Paris, where he was Cole Porter’s lover, he came to London in 1926. Allegedly the lover of a whole loaf’s worth of the upper crust – from Edwina Mountbatten to Noel Coward – he was enormously popular with “Society” as well as “ordinary people”, singing on the radio a great deal. His voice was soft, sweet and gentle, and he tended to sing romantic ballads…. But he was “tormented” and spent his last years in poverty. What a waste.
There’s not a great deal about him on the internet - wikipedia has a “stub” – but there’s an interesting-sounding biography of him, on sale here.
His music is a bit harder to track down – he has the odd track in plenty of period dance band compilations – but here’s an album which they are practically giving away….
To find out more
Information about bi people is often hard to track down; good stuff – as distinct from racist nonsense - about Black bisexual women or men is even harder. But if you are interested in finding out more about Black British LGBT stuff, rukus promotes events and is organising an archive.
The main Black History Month site is here.