Downhearted Blues

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"Down Hearted Blues"
Down Hearted Blues sheet music cover.jpg
Sheet music for "Down Hearted Blues"
Single by Alberta Hunter
Released1922 (1922)
RecordedNew York City, July 1922
Songwriter(s)Alberta Hunter, Lovie Austin

"Downhearted Blues" is a blues song composed by American jazz singer Alberta Hunter and musician Lovie Austin. The first line sets the theme for the song: "Gee but it's hard to love someone when that someone don't love you." Hunter sang it during her engagement at the Dreamland Cafe, in Chicago, where she performed with Joe "King" Oliver's band. She made a recording of the song in 1922.

Blues singer Bessie Smith recorded the song with piano accompaniment by Clarence Williams on February 16, 1923. It was released as her first single (with "Gulf Coast Blues" on the B-side); 780,000 copies were sold in the first six months, and eventually 2 million copies were sold.[1]

The National Recording Preservation Board included Smith's recording in the inaugural National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2002.[2] The board recognizes songs that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[3] In 2001, the Recording Industry Association of America, with the National Endowment for the Arts, included it at number 315 in the list of the Top 365 "Songs of the Century".[4] The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame identified it as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock".[5] In 2006, Smith's recording received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.[6]

"Downhearted Blues" has been recorded by numerous other musicians, including[7] Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra, Eva Taylor, Lucille Hegamin, Edna Hicks, Hazel Meyers, Mildred Bailey & Her Alley Cats, Cab Calloway & His Orchestra, Teddy Wilson, Kid Ory, Juanita Hall, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (sung by Wills, a longtime Bessie Smith fan), Son House, and Teresa Brewer.


  1. ^ Britannica Educational Publishing (2009-10-01). The 100 Most Influential Musicians of All Time. Rosen Publishing Group. p. 162. ISBN 9781615300563. Retrieved 2012-03-14.
  2. ^ "Complete National Recording Registry Listing". National Recording Preservation Board. U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  3. ^ "Librarian of Congress Names 50 Sound Recordings to the Inaugural National Recording Registry". National Recording Preservation Board. January 27, 2003. Archived from the original on February 2, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  4. ^ "The Recording Industry Association of America Top 365 Songs of the Twentieth Century". Association Admiration Aggregation. Retrieved June 12, 2016.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  5. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Exhibit Highlights. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. Archived from the original on 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  6. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Awards – Past Recipients". The Recording Academy. 2006. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  7. ^ "Song search results for Downhearted Blues". AllMusic. Retrieved June 12, 2016.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

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