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Cat Power Speaks… But Not With Us



I love Chan Marshall, she is a crazy genius, she writes super honest music that she can’t always sing on stage, she stops and goes on, she stumbles and keeps going, she can’t care less about perfection and image, and if she has a stage name (Cat Power) she has never put on an act or a stage character. I have met her and she is always herself, unpredictable and vulnerable. She talked to the Guardian and I supposed this is a summary of a long discussion? I wonder why this is presented as bullet points, what is this, a power point presentation? Anyway, you learn a bit about Cat Power or Chan Marshall, they are the same and unique person, and there’s nobody like her out there.

She lived in Atlanta as a kid, but moved around a lot, and this may have contributed to her huge social consciousness:

‘Nelson Mandela was a huge presence in Atlanta, where I spent some time as a kid. They even have a statue of him in the park. When I went to Soweto as an adult in 1996 I had this idea that everything had changed. But to see the horror of what was happening in Johannesburg, of people being set on fire because they wanted their electricity turned on, I realized nothing had.’

Her nomadic existence had made her very aware of the world:

‘Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve seen the same type of people. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or if you can drive a car or not. We all generally want the same thing: clean water, shelter and security for our families.’ And I guess this is what transpires in some of her songs like the recent ‘Ruin’ with the lyrics ‘I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, Dhaka, Calcutta/Soweto, Mozambique, Istanbul, Rio, Rome/Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Taiwan, Great Britain/Belfast, to the desert, Spain/Some little bitty island in the middle of the Pacific/All the way back home, to my town/To my town/Bitching, complaining when some people who ain’t got shit to eat.’

Since she belongs to the generous and sensible type of human beings, she has always wanted to change the world: ‘I thought fame would let me change society. Around the mid-90s, when the Beastie Boys were doing their Dalai Lama thing, I thought I could help disenfranchised people find their voices. I still want to use my fame for good, but I don’t know how to fix the world.’

But, before saving the world, she had to save herself first. She is the anti-Kanye, the type of artist who has saved millions with her music but has always had doubt about her art: ‘I used to lie about what I did. When a cab driver would ask me what I did for a living I’d say: “I’m a writer.” I never thought I was a “good artist”, like people are “good bartenders” or “good cleaning ladies” with efficiency and a work ethic. I didn’t believe in myself.’ Chan Marshall has struggled with depression, alcoholism and has even contemplated suicide in the past, as she alludes to: ‘I’ve spent a lot of my life not fitting in. As a culture we forget that we are very different to each other.’ She also reveals that the great Patti Smith gave her a ‘life-saving advice’: ‘She told me: ‘It’s your responsibility as an artist to stand up if you believe in something.” I was overwhelmed by that. At the time I was just trying to keep myself alive and stop myself jumping out of windows.’

However, she has also faced death very recently, after the release of her last album ‘Sun’, because she contracted angioedema: ‘I’ve looked death in the eye. The day after Sun [her 2012 album] came out I was in hospital with angioedema [a stress-induced and potentially fatal swelling in the body]. They told me they were going to put me in a coma to save my lungs. My friend came to visit and told me I’d made the Billboard Top 10 and all I could think was: ‘I don’t want to die.’

Thankfully, Chan is still alive and will produce many more songs, I hope. In the interview, she also shares the origin of her art: ‘Songs can be destructive but helpful. Lyrics come from different places. Sometimes they come from a need, hope, memories or dreams, and sometimes they just come for no reason, from nowhere.’

Cat Power is one of my favorite artists of all time, her voice is a special gift and her song ‘The Greatest’ still gives me the chills after a 1,000 listenings. I will see her again in September, she is coming back in Los Angeles and I couldn’t pass.


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