Writings, Essays, Lyrics, Musings, Commentary . . .

Article #39: The Mission of the "Gaye Without Shame" CD

I was recently afforded a wonderful opportunity: to share my story, the mission behind the new CD, in a column in the August/September issue Blues Revue Magazine. Bob Margolin, the producer of my CD, writes a regular column for the magazine. Because of his deep commitment to end the discrimination of the GLBT community, part of his activism was to allow me to share his column to detail the mission.

Bob begins the article with "full disclosure" -- to explain to readers that even though he plays an integral part in the production and marketing of the CD, it's not "nepotism," it's not tooting his own horn, it's not about sales. It's about seizing this opportunity to present this mission to his readership.

I am not printing Bob's part of the story. Nor is this my final draft. I am hoping that you might go out and buy the actual magazine (or, better yet, subscribe). The article also has a truly unique photo of me -- one that Bob shot one day after we'd been recording. It's of me holding a Big Mama Thornton album jacket. I always take it into the studio. There are 12 shots of Big Mama's face with different looks. I'm pointing at one of the more fierce looks and mimicking it. It's the looks she gives me when she sometimes "speaks to me" and says, "Get it right, woman!" The photo is a monster!!

So, here we go. My portion of the Blues Revue article:

I am a blues woman. I lay my soul bare. I have no shame. I have always been an activist, but now my weapons of choice are a microphone and my pencils. Beyond good music for the sake of good music, my mission is basically twofold: I want my blues community to honestly see me, to gain understanding about my struggle for acceptance; and, I also want my GLBT (gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/trangender) community to fully experience the universal healing power of the blues.

Many songs will give the Blues community an understanding of the issues GLBTs face. "Queer Blues" is "audiobiographical" and relates my personal struggle. "Bareback Rider" chronicles the need for safe sex and "Hold My Hand" tells the fear of dying -- whether of AIDS or anything else. A reworking of "The Great Pretender" shares the oppression of the transgender members of my community. "Step Parent Blues" could relate to any non-traditional family.

There are two straight up love songs in duets with women -- "Honest I Do" and "Let It Be Me" (yes, that's not blues, but it's one of my favorite songs and this version might be the new "wedding song"). Anyone who knows my writing knows that I have to have a dose of humor: "Hungry Woman," "Boy in the Boat," and "Hetero Twinges" provide such. "Lying Preacher Blues" mirrors the hypocrisy of preachers who selectively use the Bible to oppress and "Tippin' on the Down Low" mirrors the hypocrisy of sneaky adventures of so-called straight people. "Deja Vu Blues" is perhaps the deepest of my songs, comparing the struggle for civil rights in the 60s with the struggle of today. For bonus tracks, an exerpt from a speech furthers this comparison, with an a capella anthem, "I Ain't Ashamed," triumphantly ending the recording.

For the second part of my mission, to take blues to the GLBT community, I have purposely chosen varied styles/facets of the blues: New Orleans 2nd line, jump blues, doo-wop, gospel-tinged, Chicago old school, Piedmont, Delta, classic blues, rhythm and blues. As I seek to introduce people to this genre, I want them to experience the depth and breadth of this magic healing music. I have purposely included two of my all time favorite songs -- a slow one and a fast one: "It Hurts Me Too" and "Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On". I feel confident that all these songs will speak to this marginalized community.

Musically, this CD represents great personal growth. For the first time, I've recorded many of the tracks with an electric blues band. For the first time, I've had a producer, Bob, who has dug deep to understand my ideas and bring them to fruition. For the first time, I play slide on 3 cuts. Yep, tis quite rudimentary, but I'm proud to say that an old dog can learn new tricks. . . and I love it!

For all the Saffire fans, let me make it clear that Saffire is alive and well. We are in rehearsal for a new studio CD -- hopefully to be released early '09. However, all of us are involved in other projects. All of us are supportive of each other. Also of note, a Saffire documentary, "Hot Flash," made its festival debut with rave reviews at the Bermuda International Film Fest in April.

So, it is my hope that both communities will receive this love offering with open hearts. Further, it is my hope that this CD offers redemption to my foremothers, my musical ancestors -- Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, and others. Blues has been my salvation and my comforting companion as I've journeyed a dark and difficult past while simultaneously dancing in the light -- with my life's blues soundtrack. May we all find peace through music. 360ยบ.