Recently, a comment was posted in response to my piece about Abbey Lincoln and her intense song Throw it Away. "I'd like to sing it," the commenter wrote, "but I'm afraid I'd start sobbing onstage."
I immediately thought of the Antonio Carlos Jobim song "DIndi," as recorded on Wayne Shorter's 1969 LP "Super Nova." it is the only performance I know-live or recorded- which actually includes a performer crying.
The first part of the track is percussion-mainly Brazilian-and soprano sax outbursts, which in no way prepares you for the vocal, which comes in at about 4:00. The vocal lasts about 3 minutes and the song ends with several more minutes of percussion and sax, alternatingly spacey and aggressive.
The vocalist is Maria Booker. Maria was bassist Walter Booker's wife and Shorter's sister-in-law. She was not a professional singer, but Bluenote producer Duke Pearson had heard her emotional version of Dindi. The accompaniment was just Walter Booker on classical guitar-a stark contrast to the other sections of Shorter's arrangement.
The lyrics of the song are fairly evocative and, indeed, from the beginning, Maria sounds deeply invested. As the song proceeds, she clearly becomes more and more emotional and barely manages to finish, gasping out the last few lyrics. Then, she starts sobbing softly.
I heard Super Nova a few years after its initial release and my first response was shock. I felt Dindi was lovely, but was unsure if the crying was just a show-biz add-on. My willingness to release deeply into the song hung on whether or not I believed in the veracity of Maria's tears. After a moment's hesitation, I bought in.
Now, so many years later, I read that Maria and Walter separated just after the recording. What seemed real, apparently was.