Archive | Music Matters

Share Your Love With Me (Aretha, Forever)

Did you know that Aretha’s version of “Share Your Love With Me”–first recorded by Bobby Band, but no one covered a track like the Queen–has made me cry ever since I was a kid? The loneliness and longing of the lyrics are perfectly matched by Aretha’s musicalit; she always produced her albums when the studios boys didn’t credit her. Just listen to the first chords of her piano; that Atlantic Records horn section; her glorious, churchified sisters thrilling and trilling; and then Lady A swooping us all up–generously, joyfully–in her big beautiful voice, making all of the human condition OK. Yes, even our pain. Especially our pain.

This song. I can’t tell you how many times my heart has been so broken that I’ve barely been able to feed myself, let alone feel myself, but could still listen to this song. Over and over, numbly at first, then with big tears streaming, until I was shored enough to face the world with spine and lipstick straight. This song is my church, and Aretha is forever my minister.

I’d say I miss her and of course that’s true. But it’s also true that she lives on in every one of my scratchy vinyls. The ones I’ve been listening to since I was that kid in dirty braids who saved up to buy them at Skippy White’s in Cambridge’s Central Square. I’m so grateful Aretha Franklin helped raise me even if she didn’t know she was doing it. Raising people up is what she did and she always will. She shares her love with all of us.

Painting at Audre’s: Part II

This is the second and final installment of an essay that I began earlier this spring. It is a window into my book, to which I’ve been slowly returning as the world is too rapidly opening back up.
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NYC has opened back up, and the smell of fresh paint suffuses every block, a top note to the concentration of garbage piling up on sidewalks, weed clouding every corner. For every person fleeing their Covid cave for fresher air and wider horizons, another is claiming a new base for big-city dreams, 16 months delayed.

It all involves an awful lot of fresh paint.

Some associate this scent with toxicity—chemicals, ill health, colonization. For me, it’s a gateway to an autumn four decades ago, when Audre resurfaced and the world first opened up.

Really, it was simple. One day Audre called up, and the following Friday, without disclosing any of the long-awaited details of their conversation, my mother whisked Jennie and me into Cambridge, where Audre had rented a long apartment on a tree-lined block between Central and Inman Square. It didn’t occur to any of us to bring my father because he never strayed from his Friday routine: popcorn, tea, computer manuals, sports radio, and bed at 8:30. Of course now substitute poetry for manuals and 70s film for sports radio and my routine is not that far off, but back then his diurnal rhythms seemed the ultimate in passive domination.

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The Church of Prince and the Revolution

Today is the 62nd birthday of Prince Roger Nelson. Anyone who reads this blog knows that he’s part of a holy trinity for me, the other two members being Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. But not everyone realizes that our astrological charts continue to affect others long after we die. This is important because our Lord in Purple hailed from Minneapolis, the heart of America’s broken heartland, where George Floyd was so flagrantly and unrepentantly executed by law enforcement officials that his murder launched a worldwide revolution. Had he been alive Prince surely would have been the first to raise holy hell. He loved his hometown fiercely–never really left–and was so down for revolution that he named his band after it. If the depth of his social justice commitment was not fully recognized during his lifetime, that’s only because he kept many of his good works behind the scenes. Which only makes me love him more.

His genius was recognized, though, and it continues to offer a collective intimacy necessary to fight the good fight, because it continues to remind us how unique and desirable we all are–how worth fighting for. Trust that he would be on the forefront of today’s protest lines today were he alive. And trust that he is moving just as powerfully behind the scenes today— composing the perfect lyric, backbeat, howl to raise us from the ashes of institutionalized white supremacy.

So I believe that on his 62nd solar return—when a person’s energy is most felt— we may still call on Prince for support, practical magic, and inspiration. Indeed, may this poly-everything, third-eye-winking, putting-the-Gem-in-Gemini reign as the sign of our times. Purple love to all on this turbulent Sunday in America.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy