... Ma Rainey … A snippet of William and Ma Rainey. Rainey is believed to have remarried, though little is known about her second husband. Watching Viola depict Ma, it's clear the Oscar-winning actress did a lot of preparation to portray the powerful, bawdy, and charismatic singer. ", "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 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. Women's Health may earn commission from the links on this page, but we only feature products we believe in. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the actress' second adaptation of an August Wilson stage show, following her Oscar-winning turn in 2016's Fences. And when somebody lives outside the rules, it becomes very clear what the rules are," director George C. Wolfe told The New York Times. Before long, Gertrude caught the attention of William "Pa" Rainey, another traveling showman, and in 1904, they married. Reflecting on Ma Rainey's personal life, she was a married woman. "You're setting your boundaries so that people will finally respect you and see you and value you, but they don't," she continues. This content is imported from {embed-name}. "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. On February 2, 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William "Pa" Rainey. 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. (Denzel … And then once they get it, you're just trash to them.". 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. 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. In 1923, Ma became one of the first Black artists signed to Paramount, and she made her first of roughly 100 recordings. Around the same time, Sandra R. Lieb published a book about Ma's life titled Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey. While Ma Rainey was married to William, her lyrics were heavy on lesbian content. Shortly after beginning her career, [Gertrude Pridgett] met the man who would become her husband. "I think that [August] captures our humor as Black people," she told CBS News. Throughout her career, Ma Rainey recorded over 90 albums. Songbird of the South Sadly, just years after her retirement began, Ma died of a heart attack on December 22, 1939. Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. Most recently, in 2017, the Rainey McCullers School of Arts in Columbus, Georgia was named after both Ma and novelist Carson McCullers. Kayla Keegan covers all things in the entertainment, pop culture, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping. Hall of Fame Essay. (One scene shows Ma refusing to sing unless the producers buy her a Coca-Cola. "There was no one person that I picked to really [base her character off of]," Taylour tells Women's Health. Whatever you heard before, it was not the blues—because no one else sang the blues like Ma Rainey. 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. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is actually one of several works included in August's American Century Cycle collection. A member of the First African Baptist Church, she began performing in black minstrel shows. "It's like any way out of where I'm coming from is better than what I'm in right now, so I'm going for the ride," she says of her character's motivation. "We're going to do one a year for the next nine years. Why trust us? 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. It doesn't get any better than that. During the '80s and '90s, Ma's contributions to music continued to be recognized. Back in 1904, Ma Rainey was married to William “Pa” Rainey. Inside The Royal Family's Secret Code-Word System, This Soda Tab Hack Will Give You More Closet Space, Diana's Chef Said 'The Crown' Got Things Wrong, The Sussexes' Royal Exit Was Harry's Idea, All The Pop Songs In Netflix's 'Bridgerton', William & Harry's Feud Was "Very Ugly" And Intense. Ma Rainey may not have been the first woman to sing the blues, but she might as well have. Per Robert Springer's "Folklore, Commercialism and Exploitation: Copyright in the Blues" and History.com, it was common practice for white-owned record labels to get Black artists to sign away their recording rights (and then have white artists release covers of their songs), underpay Black artists, and make it difficult for Black artists to receive the royalties they earned. ), "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. Following “Fences” and “Ma Rainey,” he intends to continue adapting Wilson’s famed American Century Cycle, a 10-play series spanning each decade of the 20th century. To Dussie Mae, Ma represents the possibility of being successful as a Black woman. 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. "He captures our humor, our vulnerability, our tragedies, our trauma. I play [Ma's] lover, and I'm on this adventure with everybody else. 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 much of the 1920s, Ma lived in Chicago and performed at house parties and concerts around the city while recording tracks for Paramount. Whoopi Breaks Up Joy-Meghan Spat on 'The View', Kate Middleton Celebrates Her 39th Birthday, HBO Max's 'Friends' Reunion Special Is Happening, How to Read the 'Bridgerton' Books in Order, Fans React to the 'ZEP' Season 2 Premiere Episode, All the Details So Far About 'The Crown' Season 5, The Sussexes' Royal Exit Was Harry's Idea. She later claimed that she was first exposed to blues music around 1902. her protegé and fellow Blues pioneer Bessie Smith. At the age of 18, she married William “Pa” Rainey, which is when she adopted the name “Ma.” And, later the couple went on to adopt a son named Danny. By 1927 — a.k.a. During the Black Arts Movement of the '60s, poet Al Young famously wrote "A Dance for Ma Rainey," to honor her artistry. Her performances thrilled audiences, putting her on the path to become one of the early blues greats. When the black bottom exploded in popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for it. 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). Well I done learned that, and they gonna treat me the way I wanna be treated no matter how much it hurt them."). In 1904, Rainey married the comedian, dancer and vocalist Will Rainey, and they toured as a duo with a variety of minstrel troupes, billing themselves as Ma and Pa Rainey. I'm really excited about that," he told The Hollywood Reporter. Ma Rainey was an African-American blues singer. 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. 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