Saturday, 15 January 2011

Link happy and laying low

Wow, life getting in the way plus access ish-yoos has turned a pause into a positive hiatus. Sorry to leave the last post dangling believe me it doesn't get much better. I've still got a few things I need to take time out to deal with but I did catch a watchable documentary in the early hours about the wonderful Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
I first stumbled upon her years ago among the libraries music stock. Between the enlightened world music style policy of the library, the diverse community surrounding it plus some judicious ordering from dedicated musos helped me to finally get hold of things like Big Mama Thornton's version of Leiber and Stoller's take on the blues. It was only then that I realised she wrote and recorded Ball and Chain popularized by Janis Joplin, (her influence on JJ is obvious).

I remember being electrified hearing her sing the definitive "Hound Dog" treatment on the radio it TOTALLY blew the famous Elvis version -which never really scanned lyrically- to smithereens. It irritated me after that I'm not hating, I never tire of Suspicious Minds.

When you hear Big Mama's magnificent growling and warbling meaning falls into place. Incidentally some reckon Elvis saw Sister Rosetta play and that her showmanship was an influence on his.

I remember being able to hear recordings by Edith Piaf who is a national institution in France apart from the usual La Vie En Rose, and Je ne Regrette Rien. I was intrigued after reading a biography of her by Margaret Crosland. I did not enjoy it at all! I was bordering on outraged in fact, yet as I had time before I had to return them and still having vague notions of trying to extend my school French into something approaching fluency (ha!) I figured I'd just learn the songs.

I did my chores with her in the background mais voilĂ  ! I finally heard her, I can't even remember what why I took so against her at first. The things I've ended up liking the most were not always instant.

What I admire about Sister Rosetta like so many apart from her playing and singing is her overall performance. She started as a child hitting the road with her ever so religious mother, leaving her father behind in rural *Arkansas, they landed at a church in Chicago, her precocity and talent served to attract people.

She was the first female electric guitar player I saw who could really related to the instrument with their whole being, as an extension and expression of themselves. With most other female players I tend feel they are playing an instrument whereas Sister Rosetta had total command she dominated it unselfconsciously in a way we tend to take for granted in men.

I relate to the sense of her being both a pious and a libertine she was rebellious in the common sense way, she liked to find ways to do what she wanted even if it wasn't the done thing. She is an example of the way the highs of the sacred and the piety in the sexual coalesce in the same place, if you get deep enough.

Her switching from gospel to secular and back again outraged some of her church fans. She refused or was unable to let go of either and managed to win people round with the sheer force of her talent. People shocked by her recording the gospel ballard "Rock Me" substituting God for a mere mortal, using the same approach as she would the original it becomes thrillingly direct.

She was naughty but nice a lively indomitable character pansexual in her tastes the kind who got into scrapes and schemes which made her loving friends shake their heads, there goes Rosetta.

Apropos that aritistopia link for BMT, I've just stumbled on Big Maybelle, check out her (earlier) version of a rock and roll standard plus this.

I'll see you over the hump.


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