Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ill-Ustrated Songs #11 Don't Go To Strangers

Not exactly a torch song, here's a porch song...a woman keeping the light burning in the window while she waits for her dim-bulb boyfriend to finish carousing.

A sad, moody blues, this now-obscure song by a woman usually confused with blues singer Etta James, is a distant cousin to "Don't Explain" by Billie Holiday. These women are pretty resigned to having to deal with a no good man. You can picture Etta, smoking in bed, alone, but instead of smouldering with resentment or getting even, she's telling the guy that real love is more than a one night stand.

Fats Waller sang the male equivalent, "Ain't Misbehavin'" which suggested that waiting around wasn't too much of a sacrifice. Here, Etta says "when you need more than company, don't go to strangers..." like she's, what, dating Kobe Bryant? She's dry eyed about this guy wetting his wick in moist areas that aren't hers. She doesn't care how much he dribbles, if one day she'll catch him on the rebound. A sad song indeed.

Etta Jones is gone now, but Etta James is now singing this number. She figured that since her rival is now dead, she'd just grab the song and make it her own. That's the same logic that led Etta James to meander over to Genya Ravan after a show and tell Genya, "How dare you sing black." Which is sort of like telling Leontyne Price, "How dare you sing white Italian classical music." Over here at the illfolks corner of Obscurity & Forgotten, let's just say that the woman who did it first and best was Etta Jones, and that people of every color can get the blues.


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