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“Prove It On Me Blues”

Gertrude Rainey, better known as Ma Rainey (1886 – 1939), was one of the earliest professional blues singers and among the first generation of such singers to record. Billed as Mother of the Blues, she did much to develop and popularize the form. Ma Rainey lived the unconventional life of a blues diva and broached topics in her music that were taboo in other forms of musical expression. Although married, Rainey indulged in occasional bisexual escapades and wrote one number, “Prove It on Me Blues,” that daringly celebrated such liaisons. This is the original recording from 1928.


As you’ll note, the recording is so poorly done that it is difficult to hear the lyrics. Shoga Film’s “Ma Rainey’s Lesbian Licks” is a contemporary cover of this song performed by Tia Carroll, an award-winning vocalist, and other Bay Area musicians. Beyond the brio of the performance itself, “Prove It On Me Blues” is placed in its complex historical context by an imaginative use of the newspaper ad that was developed to sell the record back in 1928.





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