The music I have included in this blog has been a little phallocentric. A bunch of men playing with their instruments and whining how their girl/woman/baby has done them wrong. There will be a lot more of that in the future but I want to do a couple of pieces about the wonderful female singers & players who have made music I have loved for so long. I am not the biggest fan of sensitive women with acoustic guitars. A young woman recently asked my opinion of Joni Mitchell. I said that men pretended to like her music so they could sleep with women who did like it. I do not believe this at all…it was a joke. I was shocked that I had even thought such a thing never mind said it out loud.
The music in these first two is mainly from the 60s, a period in music which seems to be a gift that keeps on giving…Man, I thought I had my first three & I around five more have jumped to the front of my mind. OK let’s see where this leads me.
How much do you love this clip ? Barbara Lynn, young (just 20), beautiful, elegant & confident. This is her first single, a song of her own. It takes elements from the blues, church & country. Barbara is contributing to the invention of the sound and the look of a phenomenon…soul music. Tamla Motown employed people to show their artists how to present themselves in public.They would have probably advised their young ladies from Detroit that toting around a big old Fender Esquire would be inappropriate. Ms Lynn’s personal guitar style is wonderful,The instrumental break, leading the best Texan musicians money could hire, is still amazing. Ms Lynn don’t need no charm school. When she sang in D.C. she dropped by the White House & gave Jackie Kennedy some tips. Big crush here, I’ll admit it.
The arrival of rock and roll seriously affected the ability of blues artists to make a living from their music. The new generation of young black Americans wanted a new sound less rooted in the painful experience of the generations before them. In Chicago, the home of urban blues, Chess Records (with producer Willie Dixon) continued to make fine blues records throughout the early 60s. In 1965 (three years after the modernity of Barbara Lynn) this Koko Taylor classic,written by Dixon, became an R&B hit.
Koko was in her 30s when she had her hit. She stuck to the blues as the other female star at Chess, Etta James, moved towards soul. As this clip, taped in 1967, shows she got to have Chicago’s finest musicians in her band. The harmonica player is Little Walter (Jacobs), his run of hit records in the 50s are essential records. The rock and roll Hall of Fame originated a “sideman” category to accommodate Walter. An alcoholic with a temper, his playing helped define the template of Chicago blues. Guitarist, Hound Dog Taylor, seems to be a man who is not easily pleased. His sliver of a smile at the end of the song indicates his opinion that Koko and the band had represented for Chicago and the music. They certainly have.
Koko recorded a wild duet with Willie Dixon, “Insane Asylum”, which can still shock with it’s raw power. It is a pity that it was her death, two years ago, that brought her back into the public’s ears.
Well, it had to be Ms Simone. She was the “High Priestess of Soul” but her artistry meant that her music was beyond categories. In her best work she obtained such depth and purity of emotion that it can still shock. She had a reputation as a difficult person to work with and as a erratic performer. Those of us who only know her records recognise a seeker of truth even perfection and we love her for it.
Her involvement in the civil rights movement was often reflected in her choice of material. She was never didactic but always forthright, always intense. “Ain’t Got No…I Got Life”, a hit from the hippie musical “Hair”, has never been my favourite tune of hers though this makes me reconsider. This version of a song of affirmation and hope was recorded in 1969 at the Harlem Community Festival. Simone is a beautiful, aristocratic African queen. Her dashiki- clad band cook up a fine groove and she sings the hell out of the song.
I don’t know if the Harlem Festival is still held. I think they have Dave Chappelle’s Block Party instead !