Lucy Lawless on
TELL MAMA - THE LATE GREAT JANIS JOPLINBy Marion
Etta James recorded 'Tell Mama' in 1968. Janis was a huge fan of the likes
of Etta James, Big Mama Thornton, Odetta & Bessie Smith. She loved the sound & the soul-fullness of these black singers & fell totally in love with the
genre. Janis herself has been referred to as the best white female black
singer ever in music history. I for one, agree.
So how does this little white Australian fall in love with the magic of
Janis? Through seeing the movie 'The Rose' as an emotionally starved 16 year
old. That movie & the music just opened up a whole new world to me that I
never knew existed but had somehow been craving for all my life. Janis was
not just a singer, she is a soul singer, a story teller, a heart-breaker, a
captivator, an ass kicker, a frightened child & a red hot blooded woman who
rose to the top in a male dominated world of Rock. Very few people know that
at the height of her fame, she was more popular than The Doors, Jimi
Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead etc. She was the No. 1 draw card in
Rock Music & it always drives me crazy that these male identities seem to be
remembered more today than Janis. I mean no disrespect to them, but Janis
was SO unique.
She could scream like no other, she could split her voice in a way that she
could actually harmonise with herself or she could make her voice sound as
pure & smooth as Billy Holliday. When she sang, you HAD to listen. She could
get you up on your feet & have you dancing or rip your heart out as she
bared her soul & have you crying in your hands. There has never been another
like her & there never will.
Many people don't 'get' Janis & I can understand this. All they see is wild
haired screaming hippie & that's fair enough, no one is ever going to
convince me to listen to a Mariah Carey record!! If you want to hear Janis's
version of 'Tell Mama' it is in a CD called 'Farewell Song' which has a
bunch of great live tracks & the recordings were released after her death
(she died on October 4, 1970 - hey, in a couple of days it will be 36 years
since she died WOW!).
When I heard Lucy was going to do 'Tell Mama', firstly I was over the moon
with excitement & then I got really scared for her because it is a REALLY
REALLY hard song to sing & it needs so much guts & grunt behind it to pull
it off. I soooo didn't want Lucy to fail. But we all know that Lucy is one
smart gal & she had the arrangement simplified dramatically so she could
step into the song, rather than have it swallow her up. I was so proud of
her & punched the air when she finished & kicked the mike over. Not only was
that gesture a bit of a tribute to Janis but it was like she was saying
"Beat that, dammit!".
I couldn't care less that Alfonso won Duets. Lucy was fraking AWESOME. It
was so cool to watch her improve each week & these last 2 weeks she totally
ripped it! She finished the series by tearing the ass out of her previous
image & has come out the other side of this experience showing us a rock
chick & an all round fabulous performer with guts, grace & such heart. There
is no loss here, only sweet success. Oh.. and one hell of a happy Janis
Joplin AND Lucy Lawless fan sitting at her computer at 2am in Melboure,
Respect to all.
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