The Struggles and Triumphs of Bessie Jones, Big Mama Thornton, and Ethel Waters

Bessie Jones - Part 3: 1970s to 2000s


Other Awards

In addition to the Ellington Fellowship medal Jones received from Yale in 1972, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Jones with the National Heritage Fellowship in July 1982. The event was held in Washington, D.C. at the Folklife Festival.

Published Works

Jones published two books during her lifetime. In 1972, Jones and folklorist Bess Lomax Hawes, the sister of Alan Lomax, published Step it Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage. The book provides the history behind African American traditions as well as song lyrics and musical scores of African American folk songs. In addition, the text provides instructions for children’s games and plays. In 1983, Jones and John Stewart published For the Ancestors: Autobiographical Memories. In the text, Jones discusses her life and her commitment to preserving African American music and folklore.

Jones with the Georgia Sea Island Singers performing the song "Sometime" (YouTube).

Jones’ Impact After Death

Although she died in 1984, Jones’ work has continued to influence American music after her death. In 1998, popular recording artist Moby sampled Alan Lomax’s recording of Jones singing “Sometime” for his single "Honey." Throughout Moby's track, Jones can be heard singing the following lyrics:


If my honey comes back, sometime

I'm gonna rap that jack, sometime

(Full lyrics for "Sometime" here)


Moby - "Honey" - Official Music Video (YouTube).

Moby’s “Honey” appears on his album Play (1999) as well as the film soundtracks of Permanent Midnight (1998), Holes (2003), and Middle Men (2010). 

(Full lyrics for "Honey" here)