Somebody's Angel Child Critical Context - Essay

Carman Moore

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although the author does not explicitly state his purpose in writing Smith’s biography, he does explain that, because the blues has evolved into an internationally popular musical form, he feels the need to provide further information about one of its most famous and influential singers. The subject of blues and blues singers—especially women singers—was a relatively neglected chapter in American music history until the 1960’s. While Smith never received official recognition during her lifetime, Moore’s work pays homage to a woman who, more than any other African-American performer in the 1920’s and 1930’s, was responsible for introducing the blues into the mainstream of popular American music.

Moore’s work influenced subsequent Smith biographers, particularly Chris Albertson in his work entitled Bessie (1972), which is considered the most definitive biography of the singer. Albertson and others wanted to provide a more factual, objective account of the singer’s life and career than Moore had provided in Somebody’s Angel Child. Although his work does not offer an in-depth portrait of its subject, Moore does present to those interested in the development of American music an opportunity to view Smith through the eyes of one of her most ardent admirers.

Young adults will find Somebody’s Angel Child interesting to read, and they may be inspired to know more about the person and her music, as well as about other important but often-neglected figures in the developing years of blues and jazz. Smith’s music was not to be a passing commercial fad; it was an enduring contribution that helped to change the course of an entire culture.