Smith was born in Fort Gaines, Georgia. She was a member of a church choir that performed at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival. She first won notice singing with Big Tiny Little in the early 1970s, but became internationally known in 1974 when she played Bessie Smith (to whom she is of no relation) in Dick Hyman's Satchmo Remembered at Carnegie Hall. Smith then launched a solo career, performing with the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra, Tyree Glenn (1973), Yank Lawson (1987), and the World's Greatest Jazz Band, in addition to recording numerous solo albums. She starred in the Broadway musical Black and Blue from 1989 to 1991. The liner notes to the CD reissue of Only You Can Do It feature laudatory remarks from jazz critics Rex Reed, Leonard Feather, Richard Sudhalter, and John S. Wilson. The album, produced by Ben Arrigo for GPRT Records, features the compositions of Gladys Shelley.
- Confessin' the Blues (Evidence Records, 1976)
- Do Your Duty (Black & Blue Records, 1976)
- Fine and Mellow (Audiophile Records, 1976)
- Nobody Wants You (Black & Blue, 1977)
- When You're Down and Out (Black & Blue, 1977)
- Carrie Smith (West 54 Records, 1979) with Richard Wyands, George Duvivier, Art Farmer, Richie Pratt, Budd Johnson
- Only You Can Do It (GP, 1982)
- Sings the Blues and then Some (Fat Cat's Jazz, 1982) (cassette)
- Gospel Time: Negro Spirituals and Gospel Songs (Black and Blue, 1982)
- June Night (Black & Blue, 1992)
- Every Now and Then (Silver Shadow Records, 1993)
- Sings Gospel Live in Europe (Self-released, 2001)
- I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues (with Roland Hanna, IPO Records, 2002)
- Harlem on Parade 77 with Buddy Tate, Doc Cheatham, Hank Jones
- Winard Harper - Faith 
- Dick Hyman - Piano Players & Significant Others
- Art Hodes - Authentic Rhythm Section
- Clark Terry - Live on Qe2
- After Hours With The 3B's - Bross Townsend, Bob Cunningham and Bernard Purdie.
- I Love Jump Jazz - Bross Townsend
- Weber, Bruce (26 May 2012). "Carrie Smith, Singer in ‘Black and Blue’ on Broadway, Dies at 86". nytimes.com. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Jason Ankeny, Carrie Smith at Allmusic
- Howard Rye, "Carrie Smith". Grove Jazz online.
- Allmusic Faith
- Allmusic The Authentic Art Hodes Rhythm Section review
- Allmusic Live on Qe2
- Allmusic After Hours With The 3B's
- Allmusic I Love Jump Jazz
- Taylor, Cathy. "Jazz Singer Loves U.S.A.". The Wilmington Star-News. September 20, 1981.
- Pace, Terry. "Smith Fills the Bill". The Florence Times Daily. August 10, 1984.
- Pace, Terry. "Carrie Smith Returns To Grace Handy Festival's Concert Stage". The Florence Times Daily. August 9, 1985.
- Pace, Terry. "Smith's Blues Cap Remarkable Week". The Florence Times Daily. August 12, 1985.