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.
The National Recording Preservation Board included Smith's recording in the inaugural National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2002. The board recognizes songs that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." 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". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame identified it as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock". In 2006, Smith's recording received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
"Downhearted Blues" has been recorded by numerous other musicians, including 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.
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