The question of who was the first jazz singer has been a subject of debate among scholars and music enthusiasts for a long time. Jazz music originated in the United States at the turn of the 20th century and is characterized by its improvisational style, syncopated rhythms, and use of various musical instruments such as the saxophone, trumpet, and piano.
The origins of jazz singing can be traced back to African-American spirituals, work songs, and blues music that were popular in the South in the late 19th century. Jazz singing, also known as "scatting," involves using the voice as an instrument to improvise melodies and rhythms.
The first jazz singer who gained national recognition was Mamie Smith. She was born in 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and started her career as a vaudeville performer. In 1920, Smith recorded a song called "Crazy Blues," which became a hit and sold over a million copies. This recording marked the first time that an African-American woman had been recorded singing blues or jazz music.
Another early jazz singer was Bessie Smith, who was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1894. She began performing in traveling shows and became one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s. She recorded many songs that became hits, including "Downhearted Blues" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." Bessie Smith's powerful voice and emotional delivery influenced many jazz and blues singers who followed her.
Ella Fitzgerald is another jazz singer who is often mentioned as one of the first jazz singers. She was born in Newport News, Virginia, in 1917, and began singing in amateur contests in the 1930s. She was discovered by bandleader Chick Webb and became the lead singer of his orchestra. Fitzgerald's scatting and improvisational abilities were unparalleled, and she recorded many classic jazz songs, including "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" and "Mack the Knife."
In conclusion, while there may be some debate about who the first jazz singer was, Mamie Smith is widely recognized as the first African-American woman to record a blues or jazz song. However, Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald are also important figures in the history of jazz singing and helped to shape the genre in their own unique ways. These women paved the way for future generations of jazz singers and left an indelible mark on American music.