Beale Street Blues

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"Beale Street Blues"
Sheet music cover
Song by Gilda Gray
Published 1917
Genre Blues
Songwriter(s) W. C. Handy

"Beale Street Blues" is a 1916 song by American composer and lyricist W.C. Handy. The title refers to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, the main entertainment district for the city's African American population in the early part of the twentieth century, and a place closely associated with the development of the blues. The song was published by the Pace and Handy music company in 1917, but was first popularized for a mass audience when sung on Broadway by Gilda Gray in the 1919 musical revue Schubert's Gaieties.

Like many of Handy's songs, Beale Street Blues is a hybrid of the blues style with the popular ballad style of the day, the opening lyrics following a line pattern typical of Tin Pan Alley songs and the later stanzas giving way to the traditional three-line pattern characteristic of the blues.

In the Paramount Pictures 1958 movie St. Louis Blues starring Nat King Cole as Handy, Ella Fitzgerald belts out a fine rendition of this song.

"Beale Street Blues" has been recorded by dozens of noted artists, from early recordings by Fats Waller, Herb Wiedoeft, Alberta Hunter, Charlie Poole and Jack Teagarden, to more modern versions by Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, and Tommy Dorsey. Much more recently it was included as a track on the Memphis Jazz Box in 2004 as tribute to Handy's impact on the legacy of Memphis and American music. The song itself is now in the public domain in the United States, due to expiration of the copyright, though most of the recordings of it are still covered by their own copyrights.

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