The story of Stagger shooting Billy Lyons over a Stetson hat was first covered on December 29th, 1895. While the common interpretation of Stagger Lee’s actions would be nothing more than those of a cold blooded killer but, he was oddly enough viewed as a hero to some. When Billy Lyon’s removed Lee’s hat it was as if he was taking away Stagger’s freedom. When Stagger Lee stood up and shot Billy it symbolized Stagger fighting for his manhood and freedom. The explanation of his actions allowed African Americans to admire Stagger Lee as a hero instead of a heartless criminal. The symbolism justified his actions. The story Stagger Lee's has been retold and reinvented most noticeably in Blues music. The first musical form of freedom for black people was Blues. Oppression is the common theme of Blues music. African American’s used Blues music to sing about their lack of freedom, frustrations toward the law and day to day struggles. The fight over the hat between Billy and Stagger Lee represents the African American man's fight for freedom from white oppression. Lloyd Price’s song supports the killing of Billy Lyons. The background singers chant “Stagger Lee Go, Stagger Lee, go, Stagger Lee!” while expressing his version of the night’s events. The story of Stagger Lee helped Blues music evolve. Hundreds of songs have been recorded and even more records sold all because of that one night in 1895.
A major theme in Blues music was that of sexuality. Sexuality was a topic African American Jazz singer Bessie Smith sang freely about regardless of her listener’s opinions. “The blues women did not passively reflect the vast social changes of their time; they provided new ways of thinking about these changes, alternative conceptions of the physical and social world for their audience of migrating and urban women and men, and social models for women who aspired to escape from and now improve their conditions of existence. “(Hazel Carby 26) Bessie went against the social norms of her life. She addressed social problems with ease. She had a horrible temper and did not try to keep her sex life secret. She had multiple partners, some of the same sex. Often at shows Bessie would get angry when people didn’t give her the attention she believed she deserved. This was most likely because other’s frowned upon her lifestyle because it didn’t align with theirs or because she was so successful. Bessie inspired people to not be bothered by someone's opinion of you and to stay true to yourself. Further going against social norms, she eventually died because she refused to seek treatment at a “White’s Only” hospital. Bessie was a strong headed woman who helped pave the way for future African American musicians to follow her path.
Mary Ellen Pleasant was also a