Mighty Soul Women


Back in October, I put together for The Lost Child a radio show I called “Mighty Soul Women”—an hour of powerful soul anthems and R&B obscurities from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Candi Staton, Merry Clayton, and more.

Next week I’ll be airing the sequel: Mighty Soul Women, Part 2. To get in the mood, I’d encourage you to listen to the original, which you can hear here, anytime.

A few highlights from Part 1, if you need convincing: there’s an incredible, funky cover of “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” the Waylon Jennings song—reworked here by a mostly forgotten singer, Pat Lundy, as the “Only Mama…” There are other fine, gritty, and wonderful covers: Big Maybelle’s “96 Tears,” Merry Clayton’s “Grandma’s Hands,” and Etta James’s slow-burning “Light My Fire.” We heard from Erma Franklin, a singer usually overshadowed by her legendary sister, Aretha—and overshadowed, again, by Janice Joplin’s more famous cover of “Piece of My Heart,” the song we heard this hour in Erma’s great original. We heard from Aretha, too, and several listeners wrote in to say they’d never heard the Aretha song I included (“Good to Me as I am to You”). I decided I should play more Aretha on The Lost Child; I think I’ll do an hourlong tribute later this year.

It’s hard for me to name just a few highlights from this episode.This show aired the week America was talking about “locker room talk”—so we heard Vicki Evans’s admonishment, “Don’t talk that kind of talk you’re talking to me,” and Laura Lee’s accusal: “You’re a dirty, dirty man—and you’ve got a dirty mind.” “Dirty Man” is a great song, Laura Lee a great singer. “I’m a good housekeeper,” she continues:

And I’m going to take my broom and sweep
all the dirt
out in the street.

We also heard from a couple of James Brown’s “funky divas,” those gutsy, powerhouse performers who sang with Brown’s classic traveling revue. And there was Ann Mason too, with a pointed answer song to Wilson Pickett: “You Can’t Love Me (In the Midnight Hour),” a tune released on Pickett’s own label, Atlantic, in the immediate wake of Pickett’s own hit. It’s a mostly forgettable (and forgotten) novelty, which adds nothing musically to the original; but the new lyrics, aimed squarely at the machismo of Pickett and his ilk, are refreshing, independent, and bold.

I haven’t even mentioned yet Betty Harris’s “Break in the Road,” as funky and tough as any two and a half minutes you could hope to hear—and have said nothing of Mavis Staples or Nina Simone. Just listen! Here’s the link again, if you missed it above.

Mighty Soul Women Part 2 airs this Saturday, January 21, at 9:00 a.m. (Central) on Birmingham Mountain Radio. You can hear it again Tuesday night, January 24, from 11 to midnight. And Saturday, January 28, you can hear it once more at Radio Free Nashville, 10-11 a.m. (still Central). Many singers from Part 1 will make an appearance, along with some new voices.

(The week after that, by the way, I’m doing the classic country version of all this. I made for my wife Glory a mixed CD a couple of years ago called “Badass Country Women”—fiery and empowering tunes from Loretta, Tammy, Wanda, Dolly, Hazel and Alice and more. On January 28 I’ll present the same mix, more or less, for the radio.)

Thanks for tuning in.