Tuesday, December 09, 2014
I wondered what Priscilla Coolidge was up to (covered here June 9, 2010).
I learned that on the evening of October 3rd she was shot in the head by her husband, and he then turned the gun on himself.
It happened in their home, marked by the red dot, which is in a peaceful suburb of California called Thousand Oaks. You can see there's a golf course on one side. There are mountain views on the other.
Fortunately no racist tried to attack her on stage. No enemy of Ed Bradley came after her. No psycho with a grudge against "Indians" fired a rifle at Walela when they took the stage. No. She survived all through the years.
But retired, at 73, she was killed. Neighbors reported the sounds of an argument, and a few minutes later, this talented singer and lyricist, beloved sister, mother, grandmother...was gone.
It happened where it's clean and quiet; the modest three-bedroom homes go for the typical upper-Middle class price of about $600,000. Some folks rent their places out for $3,000 or so a month.
Below are a few tracks from Priscilla's first album. It was originally issued on Sussex. I have no idea what the label's strategy was, but the ambitious debut covered a lot of territory. Some cuts were soulful, some had a kind of funky bayou tang to them, and a few were more mainstream folk-rock. "Come On Sweet" could easily have been on the soundtrack to some "Easy Rider" type movie of the day, with its California dream of romance. Perhaps some reviewers shied away because Priscilla's lyrics (she wrote most of the album herself) were loaded up with some pretty erotic and obvious imagery:
"Catch me in the sunlight in the morning. Catch me in the morning when I'm new...
Flood me 'cause your rivers run so deep babe, and I will bear your seed before this noon...
Catch me when I'm blooming in the evening, and you can taste the honey from my tree..."
Soon we'll know the darkness coming home babe, just take my hand and lay down next to me."
OK, that stuff got my attention, and I played Priscilla's album on the radio, and that included the next track, "Salty Haze," which was loaded with the hippie-dippie heavy lyrics we disc jockeys were awed by, whether from a Dylan, a Keith Reid or a Gypsy Queen:
"Yesterday some people say, we change our ways and take the graves, but tomorrow, never came from yesterday.
Yesterday the wind would say, was only time and only play for people born into the world of no tomorrow.
But today the ocean waves a misty blue and salty haze over the eyes of people born of yesterday..."
Yes, the lyrics were on the back of the album, including the note that the album was produced by one Booker T. Jones.
Soon, "Booker T. and Priscilla" were on A&M, Priscilla's first album was re-issued on A&M, and there was some hope that perhaps the rising interest in A&M's Rita Coolidge might create some kind of dynasty. And let's not forget the "Kris and Rita" album. How about THIS picture, which includes Priscilla's daughter Laura from an earlier marriage (yes, the one who would later join Priscilla as part of Walela).
Priscilla seemed to have no shortage of admirers. One of them was William D. Smith, a chunky-looking R&B singer and songwriter who made a few obscure (but not all that interesting, otherwise they'd be on this blog somewhere) albums in the 70's.
Smith: "Priscilla said hey come live with me…Even though I didn't want to move in with her, I did it anyway. The first month I moved in with her, we got along great. No fussing or fighting. She had a great sense of humor. I would walk in the room, and I could tell she had been there by the way it smelled. We hugged and kissed all the time…" Priscilla even wrote some lyrics for his songs, including "I Need You."
. The good times didn't last long: "Priscilla and I started to argue about all kinds of things. I was frustrated and she was frustrated. She had just gotten out of a bad marriage…both of us had come from bad marriages. She was seeing a therapist…Priscilla and I kept fussing…stomp-down arguments…Finally, we both agreed that if we could split up, we wouldn't have so many problems. You know, Priscilla and I could have had a beautiful friendship…"
It seemed that things were pretty nice in the house in Thousand Oaks, where a couple were growing older, and getting visits from loved ones, children, and grand-children just waiting to come into this lovely home in a sunny part of the world.
Priscilla had at least four children, including Paul and Laura Satterfield from her first marriage, and a son and daughter via Booker T. Jones: Booker T. Jones III and Lonnie, who has her own Facebook page, the one for Priscilla, and an Instagram account with lovely photos of herself, her husband and kids, and her beloved mom. Rita's only public statement is a simple one: "“Words cannot express the devastation our family is feeling with the loss of my sister, Priscilla. We are asking for privacy during this time of mourning.”
Two songs from Priscilla's first solo album: Come On Sweet/Salty Haze