Side-by-side on the shelf are Hole and Holiday – style contrasts but women abused by the star industry, drugs &by just what a woman was allowed to do. Both with distinctive voices that perhaps they never got to fully own thanks to others who wanted to control & exploit & profit from them.
Courtney Love is the voice of Hole – she has great power without sounding forced. Her private life constantly overshadowed her talent. Marriage to Kurt Cobain became & remains her identity. The songs on Live Through This & Celebrity Skin deal with some of that frustration with raw directness. But the industry only wanted to deal with her on its terms not hers & she has never been given an opportunity to be what she could be. She remains a non-conformist.
Billie Holiday, on the other hand, survived by being a conformist. I have various compilations: stand-alone The Billie Holiday Story; lp to cd transfers of God Bless The Child; & Time-Life’s Giant of Jazz box set. All the hits are there. I’ve considered the mp3 collections but do I really want alternative takes etc. What I have is sufficient. I enjoy her work but hearing it every couple of years is satisfying. Having the complete works doesn’t call to me, at least not at the prices they list at.
Her voice has a vulnerability that is hard to resist on songs like Stormy Monday, Strange Fruit. Her sexiness comes through of tracks like Pig Foot & a Bottle of Beer, I Cover the Waterfront. Like Courtney Love, her private life & addictions often over-shadowed her career. She survived and struggled & produced amazing music at the same time. Though I think she was held back by producers who wanted to stick to her strengths rather than challenge her as a vocalist.
That plaintive vulnerability often turns her songs into one longing note. Her voice became a little more weathered & to me more interesting toward the end of her career. Like Judy Garland her battle with addictions side-tracked her. God Bless The Child who can get free of the mire of fame & reputation.
‘What do you see?’
I looked around the backyard. A path had been tracked through the snow to the gate. The snow lay dirty and uneven from fence to fence, higher along the sides of the path and melted unevenly in some areas.
‘Dirty snow.’ I shrugged. ‘Birds have found a few convenient spots for their business.’
‘Good. Not everyone would see that. Anything else.’
I wasn’t sure just what it was my Dad wanted me to see.
‘Nope. Wait. The grass is brown like its been burned by the ice?’
‘Nice try. But you’re going to have to better than that. I’ll just leave you here. Say five minutes? Use your senses, not just your eyes.’ He went back into the warm house.
Oh great! I’m going to have smell the rotting winter soil for him. I made my eyes go from corner to corner of the yard. I pretended they were mowing the snow like a lawn mower mowing the grass when it came back to life. Back and forth my eyes moved from fence to fence to either side of the yard, around the edges of the garage and closer to the house till I was staring at my feet.
What did I see? Our yard. Nothing much changed in it. Snow now, then grass would wake, bulbs would pop up, later the annuals & perennials my mom would plant, then leaves would fall for me to rake.
It was by the maple tree that I had stepped on the rake tines and cut my foot. The handle of the rake jumped up to hit me on the nose at the same time. I don’t know what bothered me then – the embarrassment, the sudden fear of it lunging at me, or my sister seeing it happen & going into convulsive laughter when it happened. I could have killed her that day and then myself.
Now there was just that uneven snow. What was under that clump of snow? Ah yes the yarrow that I used to call Queen Anne’s Scab for some reason. A clump of it that had been there when we first moved into the house. We had added some pinks to contrast with the yellow and white. It was three or four years before I realized it wasn’t a weed after all.
‘See something.’ My Dad was behind me suddenly.
‘Dirty snow. Isn’t that where the yarrow is?” I pointed over to the clump by the maple tree.
‘So it is.’
October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday
November 15: Hot Damn! It’s a Queer Slam – 8p.m. – Buddies In Bad Time Theatre, Toronto
June – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C. capfireslam.org
Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr