I Like The Things About Me - Mavis Staples

from the album One True Vine (2013)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is one of most special books I have ever read.  Most noted as the first novel by a great American writer who would one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature, it is the story of a young black woman coming of age in the late 1930's with an inferiority complex about her race in a harsh world filled with racism, incest, and cruelty.  This book captures the misplaced yearning of the oppressed human spirit with greater clarity than any other book I have read.

I Like The Things About Me by Mavis Staples is a song that provides the perfect counterpoint to Toni Morrison's novel.  While acknowledging the same racial misgivings in the singer's youth, she has grown to hold her physical characteristics precious, even finding strength in them.  Dig these lyrics:

There was a time, I wished my hair was fine
And I can remember when, I wished my lips were thin
Oh, but now I wonder, why should I be surprised
I like the things about me
I like the things about me
I like the things about me
I like the things about me
That I once despised

In addition to the lyrics and message, this song has an incredible vibe that is magnificently captured by producer Jeff Tweedy.  It is a simple, raw groove created by a heavy hi-hat rhythm coupled with a deep, funky bass line.  This groove evokes inner truths and brings heightened intensity to the lyrics.

Then there is the lead guitar track.  The tone is so biting and harsh, with bending strings twisting your soul.  As I listen to this song, over and over, my body contorts to every note.

And finally there is Mavis Staples.  She is a treasure.  I dig most anything Mavis does, but this song cuts straight thru your skin and reveals the dark stuff inside.

Click Here for the album version.  Cool video of the Wilco loft in Chicago.

Click Here for a stripped down live performance on WFUV.

Click Here for a version with roughed up guitar performed live at Bottle Rock in Napa Valley.

Click Here to read my blog entry on You're Not Alone by Mavis Staples (also produced by Jeff Tweedy).  It was one of my very first entries.

Comments

  1. As I have dug deeper into this song, I have learned that it is a cover version of a Staples Singers original.

    This song was performed at Wattstax, an incredible music festival that Stax records held in 1972 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to comemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots.

    If you ever have a chance, check out the documentary film detailing the concert. It is phenomenal.

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  2. I will! I have already downloaded and started reading The Bluest Eye. I am a reader, and am fascinated (and saddened) by the era and social struggles of that time. I am not familiar with the Watts riots...but will be soon thanks to modern technology. Thanks for the enlightenment...don't know what I'd be doing without your musical and literary blog....seriously. Don't know what....

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  3. I dig people who read. Hope you like The Bluest Eye.

    You would likely like the book I am currently reading: "I Dreamed I Was A Well Dressed Hobo" by Richard Hell (of the Voidoids).

    It details the NYC underground scene of the 1970's, with the rise of clubs like CBGBs. Great stories about hanging out with bands like The Ramones and The Clash. Good stuff.

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    1. Oh yea, this is right up my alley. Boy, I haven't heard the name Voidoids in eons...I will need to go listen to them as I can't remember what their songs were, but I know once I hear them, it will bring me back.

      I bet my bro Rich would like this book too- will tell him. I never got to CBGB's, did you? I don't know when it closed. Would have loved that. I know Blondie made it big there and Talking Heads...sigh...gonna go dig out my time machine- what year should I program in? '77 maybe?

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  4. I'm sure you will remember Blank Generation.

    I'd been to CBGB's several times. Most memorable were The Ramones playing a Sunday afternoon show. They got on-stage, played for about 35 minutes, and left the crowd exhausted.

    The other book that you should check out is Just Kids by Patti Smith. It is a great book that won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction a few years ago. It is the story of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The cast of characters is incredible with Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, and Jim Carroll. I'd recommend that you read this one first. It is great.

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  5. That is funny about The Ramones...only they could spend you in 35 min...

    So I downloaded The Bluest Eye, paid $10, only to have my daughter tell me there is a copy in her room....:/ But it is wonderful so far. So feeling like I needed to get my $10 bucks back, I went to the library for Just Kids...going to have to get started on that one, lest I want to be late returning it!! Gotta love and respect the library.

    Thanks for the Summer Book Club, 40 Watt...I will expect some sweet stickers or a gift certificate for a free ice cream when I'm done!!

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  6. The world needs more people with library cards.

    Hope you enjoy Just Kids as much as I did.

    Of all the great scenes in the book, my favorite is when Patti & Robert are walking down 8th Street in the East Village and Because The Night is playing everywhere they turn.

    Robert says with admiration, "Patti, you got famous before me."

    After all they went thru, that line really touched me.

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