Betty Wright, Betty Wright Live! - Tonight Is The Night, Clean Up Woman
Natalie Cole, Thankful - Our Love, Annie Mae, Keeping a Light
I purchased my first album when I was eleven years old. I had patiently saved up $12.00, and I was anxious to give it to the "Record Man". (Record Man = A guy who drove around the neighborhood selling albums and records out of his van. Complete with loudspeaker blasting music to announce his arrival.) I can remember my daddy coming outside with me to witness my first music purchase. So I walk up to the van, and the record man asked, "What would you like young lady?" " The Betty Wright Live album please!", was my reply. Lord have mercy. What in the hell were they doing letting an 11 year old child buy an album about Betty Wright's first sexual encounter (Tonight is The Night), and cheating (The Clean Up Woman) ? My daddy's philosophy was "it's music, it's okay", which overruled any protests my mamma may have had. Thus it began.
Next purchase, same year. It was Natalie Cole's album, Thankful. I played the hell out of that album. I remember thinking the album cover was beautiful. The colors were soft earth tones, which I'm partial to even now. Natalie looks so warm, serene and confident on the cover. Who knew she was strung out on drugs? Not me, I just knew she was pretty, she could sing her ass off and she sounded like she was having fun. That's when I decided to put on "concerts" and force mama and daddy to sit in the living room and watch me sing the entire album. I would turn the lights down low, slink in mamma's high heals and a dress and perform! In hindsight, my parents were probably so patient because they were high as a kite - and in that state entertainment comes in all shapes and forms. But as a pre-pubescent diva I thought they were spellbound by my singing and stage presence. Anyone who has heard me sing can tell you it was neither. My parents just loved me enough to let me dream. And in those moments I was just as serene and confident as Natalie.