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Some Thoughts On Judee Sill’s Heart Food

In the shadow of Mike Nessing’s memento mori I have been listening to Judee Sill’s Heart Food and one thing immediately comes to mind: this is an inversion of Ray Charles taking Gospel and making secular rhythm and blues, Sill’s was taking the singer-songwriter confessional and making Spirituals.

Next is a disagreement I have in Mike’s opinion. Given the year it was released I don’t think “Heart Food” was hurt by its complex, unbelievably complex, still trying to figure out what on earth she was doing complex “The Donor,” songs or its highly polished for a struggling singer production with strings in place of silence and heavy overdubbing of Sills OK to good vocals. Joni Mitchell had released her masterwork Blue two years prior and Court And Spark would follow, Laura Nyro had written her masterworks five year prior. SO the market was used to difficult music whose reward would only come with careful listening.

No, Sill’s problem was she couldn’t really write hits, I mean not really. Theortically “The Phoenix” and “The Kiss” might have hit big but, well, it didn’t so that is that. Next, even by Joniand Laura standards Sills was way ahead of her time. I wrote about a Dirty Projectors song earlier today and sincerely recommend to them “The Donor” -the song would fit in with the work of the most cutting edge band of 2009.

But the real problem is the subject matter. I wonder how many sensitive young girls ran for the hills the moment they realized Judee was SINCERE in her Christianity -in the early 70s girls had final gotten the shackles of Christianity’s out of their panties; the last thing they wanted to be was to be saved by anything much more than romantic, satisfying, sexual love and Sill consistently embracing what Nessing dubbed John Wayne with a halo was something they did not want or need. I point you back to Mike Nessing’s post if you want to know how sincere she was.

And there is Judee Sill’s unique spirit, her difference to EVERYTHING around her: sophisticated songs decades ahead of their time, finely constructed, fascinating and beautiful lyricist, singing about her love of Jesus. Well, she wouldn’t be the first person of faith ignored in her own time only to be discovered in a later age.

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