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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Abbey Lincoln-"Throw It Away"-by Steve Provizer

I've been a real intellectual yente for the last several posts. I hope those posts have not been without emotional weight, but the death of Abbey Lincoln makes me want to write a piece where emotion leads and analysis creeps along far behind. In the late 1960's, I went to the old WGBH studios to see her then-husband Max Roach record a TV show. I didn't think twice about the fact that she was also performing. I was dazzled initially by her looks, but her voice was much more charismatic than I expected, given the recordings I'd heard. The voice was cloudy, but not smoky; carrying some vibratto, but not a heavy load. Sometimes the edges were sharp, sometimes rounded. She gave songs character and obviously chose material that could handle that investment. Soon after, she went into a period of seclusion, and re-emerged in the 1990's. Then, in 1995, she released the lp "Turtles' Dream." On that album was a song called "Throw It Away" which caught me completely off guard and which remains sui generis in my life. You've heard me say that concerts have made me scream. Movies can sometimes bring a tear, but I never cry to music; except for that damn song. Incredibly, 15 years later, it still has the power to evoke the same intense reaction. Most of the time, I actually try to avoid it, because if I hear it, the rest of the day becomes mere prelude or postlude. On the other hand, when something intense is happening in my life, and I can't get to the emotional root, I seek it out. It burns away the bullshit. You can find the song here and the lyrics here.

6 comments:

Christopher Ruston Rich said...

Wow..this is it. The year has not been good to the elders.

Steve Provizer said...

What happened to all that "people are living longer and longer" business? My imagination, or is it less true if you lead the jazz life?

Christopher Ruston Rich said...

Well that is mythic unless you are in a top income percentile and live in a gated community.

For the rest of us, longevity is shrinking compared with our 'developed' world counterparts.

And the African American demographic has a shorter life span within that 'rest of us' range.

If anything, the intensification of stress particularly among urban populations is corrosive to longevity before we even factor in the witches brew of carcinogens permeating every facet of our lives due to petro-chemical proliferation.

gmoke said...

Saw her at Scullers a few years ago. Gracious lady. Saw Max Roach a couple of times too, at NEC doing a solo with a single high hat on which he played melodies and at the Regatta with his Chinese group.

They were both elegant people and deep musicians. Glad, so glad they left us with so much good music to echo through the ages.

Andree said...

I agree--It is an intense song. It's the kind of gem that does remind you of why music is as the heart of you. I'd like to sing it, but I'm afraid I'd start sobbing onstage. Abbey Lincoln was just an amazing singer. Her version of Henry Mancini's "Whisting in the Dark" is also very evocative. A great singer, and as this song shows, a great writer as well. Andree Pages

Steve Provizer said...

Andree-Thank you for the comment. I understand your reluctance to try and sing it onstage.