I’m 45 today. This means that I am officially 15 years older than my dad and my sister were when they died and 5 years away from the age my mother died. Fucked up way of looking at things huh? Stay with me though.
I have had some amazing birthdays in my life. I am grateful and lucky to have a husband who has gone out of his way to make my birthday special over the years. I have some of the best friends and family who have been there to cheer me on or just get me wasted.
I am also lucky and grateful to the Universe that in spite of my tremendous partying and wilful neglect of my health for many years in my youth, I don’t look my age or whatever that is supposed to mean. I often joke that the only reliable advice I can give in life is to always use a quality moisturiser. I stand by this joke. I also don’t necessarily act my age or whatever that is supposed to mean. I am aware of the societal definitions that produce these images of how and what we are supposed to look like at a certain age and I firmly reject them. Nor will I waste my time listing them, deep down we all know what these are and sometimes they feel more like nooses than goals.
I have come to the conclusion that my life resembles more a first attempt at Spiral Art. Do you remember that toy? Does it even still exist? I used to love it as a kid. Circles over circles, over circles, over circles which look like a fucking mess up close. But as you stand back, well they start to look pretty, chaotic and a bit “I think I know what you were getting at.” The thing is though, with Spiral Art much like life, you can continue to build on the picture because it is all down to you how much you want to build.
That, my friends brings me to my thoughts on where I am today on this 45th Birthday. I can hear my dearly departed friend Andy in his Louisiana accent say as he often would to me, “Oh no, she’s on her soapbox again.”
Miss you Andy and yes, she is because it’s my birthday and I will soapbox if I damn want....
I’ll leave you with two songs that sum up how I feel about life right now. They are both in Spanish but you can Google the lyrics in English or just enjoy the musical sentiment.
Fangoria “Dramas y Comedias” and Dorian “Los Amigos Que Perdi”
Representation matters in life and one of the reasons behind Black History Month and months dedicated to specific groups is to ensure that contributions to history, art, culture, politics, etc are added to our greater understanding of human history. It is a fantastic opportunity to broaden your horizons and discover wonderful new facts, books, and films or in the case of this post: music.
Soul music is a genre where most people think of Aretha, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan or Patti Labelle. Oh and you should because they are absolutely fierce along with so many others.
I am one of those people that love a musical exploration. Say what you will about streaming sites but they have led me to some of my favourite singers and bands of all time. I though go the step further and seek out the vinyl albums of those artists. Soul in particular has a depth on vinyl you won’t find digitally.
This Black History Month post is dedicated to two singers that I found along the way. They may not be as well known to you (or they might).
Marlena Shaw has been singing since the 1960’s and is one of those singers whose songs have been sampled by many hip hop artists, used in commercials and famously sampled in Blue Boy’s 1997 “Remember Me.” One of her biggest hits to date was “California Soul” written by Ashford & Simpson. It appeared on her 1969 The Spice of Life album. If you want an introduction to Marlena, look no further than this album. Shaw co-wrote the first track “Woman of the Ghetto” which is the first track and the sound of her voice mixed the power of the lyrics makes this song one that could be released today and its message is still relevant. Possibly even more so given the Black Lives Matter Movement. This album also contains songs written by Carole King, Barry Mann, Bobby Miller, Cynthia Weil and others which Shaw performs with power more than vulnerability. “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to be Free)” will have you spinning and singing along to her call.
I can’t recommend her enough. To start you off listen to “Woman of the Ghetto.”
Ann Sexton (not to be confused with the writer) has also been performing since the 1960’s. Whereas Marlena came from New York, Ann’s roots are in Southern gospel. Her 1977 album The Beginning is how I fell in love with her voice. It’s not just that her voice can fill a room and that she can convey her emotions so that you feel them. It’s that her style very much feels like that friend of yours at 1am who is helping you get through a rough time, or needs you to listen to her going through a rough time. She don’t want answers, no, she wants an ear. Too often we forget that most of us just need someone to listen to us rather than solve our problems for us. The opening track “I Had A Fight With Love” will have you moving and feeling her groove. Where her vocal mastery shines is on the tracks “I’m His Wife (You’re Just A Friend)” and the sultry longing in “I Want to Be Loved.” That last track was made for 3am, when the world is quiet and you can feel all the power of the Witching Hour.
Have a listen to “I Want to Be Loved” and tell me what you think.
Till next post...
This month is LGBTQ+ History Month in the UK and as last year saw one of the worst years for LGBTQ+ rights in Europe, it felt right to dedicate a post a day on my social media account to highlight an LGBTQ+ person from 28 European countries. Representation matters and the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community can help dispel negative connotations towards us. It helps people come out. It contributes to our positive mental health. You can follow my Instagram or Facebook account for these posts and other writer/cat related posts.
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.