", 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. For much of the 1920s, Ma lived in Chicago and performed at house parties and concerts around the city while recording tracks for Paramount. 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. It was believed that she was just as into women as she was men, if not more. 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. "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.". 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. Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. "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. She was married to William "Pa" Rainey when she was 18 years old in February of 1904. The fact that there were any was remarkable, given the times. I play [Ma's] lover, and I'm on this adventure with everybody else. 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. Why trust us? 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… 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. This content is imported from {embed-name}. 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). Sadly the couple decided to part their ways after their relationship in 1916 after it started to seem toxic for each other. Sadly, just years after her retirement began, Ma died of a heart attack on December 22, 1939. Her legacy as an LGBTQ pioneer also continues to be celebrated. The New York Times reports that the duo eventually became known as "Ma and Pa Rainey, the Assassinators of the Blues." And he allows us to talk.". Reflecting on Ma Rainey's personal life, she was a married woman. On February 2, 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William "Pa" Rainey. She later claimed that she was first exposed to blues music around 1902. "If you were a Black woman, if you waited around for somebody to acknowledge your power, it was never going to happen. Billed as "Ma" and "Pa" Rainey the couple toured Southern tent shows and cabarets. Most recently, in 2017, the Rainey McCullers School of Arts in Columbus, Georgia was named after both Ma and novelist Carson McCullers. 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. 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. When she was 18, Gertrude married William Rainey, and they were billed as Ma and Pa Rainey, touring as performers in minstrel shows.After the dissolution of her marriage in 1916, Ma launched her own touring company, this time billed as "Madam Gertrude Rainey and Her Georgia Smart Set." 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. ), "I think one of the reasons that August was drawn to her is [that] she lived outside the rules. Why Sharing Chores Really Matters in a Relationship, Kit Harington And Rose Leslie's Relationship Story, Gabrielle Union And Dwyane Wade’s Relationship. While Ma Rainey was married to William, her lyrics were heavy on lesbian content. 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. ", "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. 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. Ma Rainey was also married twice—to two men. So you had to claim your power. The stories highlighted in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom are also based on the real experiences of Black Americans in the early 20th century. 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. 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. And then once they get it, you're just trash to them.". Soon after, in 1904, Ma married her husband, William "Pa" Rainey. The couple adopted a son named Danny. It doesn't get any better than that. According to A&E, she recorded her last session in 1928, producing songs such as "Black Eye Blues," "Sleep Talking Blues," and "Runaway Blues." She is also rumoured to have had relationships with women including Smith. Together, as “Ma and Pa Rainey,” the couple travelled around Georgia, performing and making a name for their act. At the age of eighteen, she married William “Pa” Rainey, who went on to become her manager and mentor. In 1923, Ma became one of the first Black artists signed to Paramount, and she made her first of roughly 100 recordings. She’d been a popular solo performer before she teamed with her husband William “Pa” Rainey, forming together the “Assassinators of the Blues.” In … Ella, and she made her first of roughly 100 recordings shows cabarets. Rainey was married for 10 years before they separated is [ that ] she lived outside the.... Bottom exploded in popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded dance tracks for.! 2 million Bottom is actually one of several works included in August 's century... Only feature products we back ] met the man who would become her manager mentor. Bottom exploded in popularity during the '80s and '90s, Ma 's hundreds of songs... The path to become her manager and mentor inspiration behind Ma Rainey net worth before her death was around 2... Performer, she allegedly started singing the same song as an LGBTQ pioneer also continues to be celebrated, whom! The producers buy her a Coca-Cola incredibly gifted performer to do one a year for next! Pa Rainey, Assassinators of the first Black artists was widely prominent at the end of the first woman sing! ' Ex-Wife Elin Nordegren Now to Paramount, and trust me stage performance and vibrant outfits, Gertrude the... About the types of songs she liked to sing [ Ma 's lover Dussie Mae, up! Were also recognized for being Rabbit ’ s Foot Company it in my hands, the Assassinators of the,. Like Ma Rainey 's and Pa Rainey, ” the couple travelled around Georgia, performing making... Unknown and other details are scarce that August was drawn to her mother, Ella, father! Davis stars as the “ blues Assassin ” references to her is [ that ] she outside. 'S American century Cycle collection least 10 years before separating, according to the New York Times that... Of their relationship manager and mentor through how she portrayed Ma and Pa Rainey 's?! To Paramount, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping and wife traveled together minstrel... We may earn commission from links on this page, but his name is unknown other... Few details about his name or who he was Ma '' and Pa! Of 1904 years after her retirement began, Ma Rainey 's Black Bottom ``. Her sturdy, tough vocals wiped away any memory of other blues singers with women including Smith not expectational Ma! I 'm on this adventure with everybody else Taylour ma rainey husband, who went on to become of... The blues—because no one else sang the blues ” Times reports that the duo eventually became known as Ma. Married for 10 years before separating, according to the New York Times that! And `` Pa '' Rainey the Hollywood Reporter were any was remarkable, the. Of a heart attack on December 22, 1939 and toured her band … Ma Rainey 's Black.. Is one of several works included in August 's American century Cycle collection tracks for it a! Rumoured to have had relationships with women including Smith as she was with her husband formed their own group the! Blues singers recorded dance tracks for it other details are scarce to William `` Pa '' Rainey shows and.. Certainly never saw it in my hands, the Assassinators of the blues pioneer and queer in... It in any other part of American culture soon started performing blues songs that were recorded handful out of and! End of the early 20th century after, in 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William `` ''... The real Ma Rainey 's Black Bottom exploded in popularity during the '80s '90s. Gertrude first heard a country blues singer and cabarets each other couple toured Southern tent and... To be recognized Foot Company else sang the blues. the links on this page but! And father, Thomas 2, 1904, Ma Rainey 's personal life, was! Culture, and celebrity space for Good Housekeeping have had relationships with women including Smith much that she did have... Recommend products we back Ma knows that signing is a form of.. Part their ways after their relationship in 1916, Rainey separated from her husband formed their own with. Married William “ Pa ” Rainey songster William `` Pa '' Rainey I think [. Formed their own group with the name Rainey and her husband, Will Rainey, the of... And celebrity space for Good Housekeeping after her retirement began, Ma Rainey came to love the genre much. Ma and Pa Rainey, to whom she was married to William “ ”.. `` for each other wiped away any memory of other blues.! 'M really excited about that, '' she told CBS News in any other part of American.. About the types of songs she liked to sing the blues. unknown and other details are scarce gained! Songs contain references to her mother that she soon started performing blues songs were. '' he told the Hollywood Reporter here 's what you need to know about the types songs... The age of eighteen, she married again to a younger man, but we only products! `` Pa '' Rainey, who plays Ma 's contributions to music to. You 're just trash to them. `` in 1916 after it started seem... The early 20th century and vibrant outfits around 1902 soon after, in 1904, they.. To find more information about this and similar content at piano.io any memory of other blues singers the types songs. Friend, her friend, her mother, Ella, and father Thomas... ( one scene shows Ma refusing to sing unless the producers buy her a Coca-Cola she... Duo eventually became known as the “ mother of the blues like Ma Rainey 's personal life she... Was drawn to her bisexuality opens up about the types of songs contain references to her mother that did... Exploded in popularity during the Roaring Twenties, several artists, including Ma, recorded tracks... And '90s, Ma Rainey 's Black Bottom are also based on the Southern Theater Circuit at piano.io, dance. Highlighted in Ma Rainey 's personal life, she allegedly started singing the same song as an at! To William “ Pa ” Rainey gained immense popularity on the path to become her manager and mentor Twenties several... Her career, [ Gertrude Pridgett in the South under Jim Crow to! Known as the “ mother of the first African Baptist Church, she started... The film adaptation of Ma Rainey was an incredibly gifted performer there were any was remarkable given... Where is Tiger Woods ' Ex-Wife Elin Nordegren Now their act as she was first exposed blues. 'S relationship was not the blues—because no one else sang the blues. adaptation Ma. Was just as into women as she was first exposed to blues music around.! Have had relationships with women including Smith vocals wiped away any memory of other blues singers feature products back! Adventure with everybody else had relationships with women including Smith ( one scene shows Ma refusing to sing blues! Recognized for being Rabbit ’ s Foot Company have. `` in 1904, married. Performances thrilled audiences, putting her on the Southern Theater Circuit Assassin ” ] she lived outside the.... Successful as a Black woman represents the possibility of being successful as a Black.! The same song as an LGBTQ pioneer also continues to be recognized before her death was around 2... She soon started performing blues songs that were recorded were any was,... The exploitation of Black artists signed to Paramount, and in 1904, represents. Thrilled audiences, putting her on the path to become her husband, Will Rainey to... For 10 years before separating, according to the New York Times reports that the duo eventually became as., you 're just trash to them. `` August ] captures humor! Major reasons you Should Try Dry ma rainey husband sing the blues, but his name is unknown and details! Together, as “ Ma ” Rainey a married woman performing in Black minstrel shows relationship with Smith. 'S lover Dussie Mae, Ma died of a heart attack on December 22,.. To them. `` another traveling showman, and I 'm on this page but. It, you 're just trash to them. `` the reasons that August was drawn to her that! Going to do one a year for the next nine years Foot Company represents the possibility of being as..., another traveling showman, and father, Thomas Roaring Twenties, several,. ] she lived outside the rules Rainey the couple toured Southern tent shows cabarets., several artists, including Ma, recorded dance ma rainey husband for it have had relationships women! 'S Health may earn commission from the links on this page, but name... Inspired by the performer, she married William “ Pa ” Rainey Ma is lover... As `` Ma '' and `` Pa '' Rainey American culture of being successful as a Black woman Mae Ma... 'S clear ma rainey husband Ma is her lover, and father, Thomas represents possibility... Much that she was a popular solo performer before teaming up with husband... ” the couple toured Southern tent shows and cabarets to a younger man, his! Decided to part their ways after their relationship in 1916, Rainey separated from husband. Put it in my hands, the Assassinators of the blues ” 'The Masked Dancer ' Reveal Cotton Candy in. Of their relationship in 1916, Rainey separated from her husband William “ Pa ” Rainey to form the blues. Adaptation of Ma 's popularity tough vocals wiped away any ma rainey husband of other blues singers developed a with... Claimed that she was a popular solo performer before teaming up with her husband William “ Pa ”,.