Solange Pays Homage to Bessie Smith, Shares Her Thoughts on Artists Speaking Out About Social Issue

Photo by Dorothy Hong
“I think it's a responsibility, it's a duty, and it should only feel natural,” says Solange.

Solange was the surprise guest at HBO’s Bessie 81 Theater Tour stop in Los Angeles last night. The singer even debuted a new song, written in response to protests in Baltimore and Ferguson. Speaking to ESSENCE earlier in the day, Solange said she felt a sense of responsibility as an artist to respond to what is happening socially.

“I think it's a responsibility, it's a duty, and it should only feel natural,” she said. “Whether that is through your music, whether that's through contributions, in any space that you can. I do think that that it's kind of everyone's responsibility as people.”

The tour celebrated the legacy of Bessie Smith, a figure Solange feels a kinship to. “I’ve heard the overall essence of her story, in terms of her being an innovator in Black music and an incredible feminist,” she said.  “She redefined what it meant, at that time, to encompass both of those things. That is enough for me to sign up for this.”

The 28-year-old said she took time out from the studio, where she is prepping a new album, to do the performance. “The last few months I’ve been reluctant to commit to doing shows because I've been really trying to buckle down and finish my record. But when something like this comes along, and it's obviously something honoring a huge part of your heritage, then you jump to it.”

Bessie premieres on HBO this Saturday, May 16, at 8pm.

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