Artist: Bessie Smith
Album: Essential Bessie Smith
“Any bootlegger sure is a pal of mine,” blues singer Bessie Smith declared in her 1928 recording “Me and My Gin,” and in the last several years of her life, she was intimately involved with one. Recorded a few months after Prohibition formally ended, “Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer” bustles into the party and immediately commands attention. It features an exuberant solo from lost-legend trumpeter Frankie Newton, and in its concluding lines a demand for “reefer” as well as gin. (Bessie Smith wanted a new drug 50 years before Huey Lewis.) Smith herself continued to exercise a preference for moonshine even after the constitutional ban on liquor was lifted, saying that “anything sealed” made her ill. Sadly, the recording session at which “Gimme a Pigfoot” was made would prove to be her last; she would die four years later from injuries sustained in a car accident. The song would later be recorded by Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln.