Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues: The Q&A

Q&A led by Maggie Brown after a screening of Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues at the Bronzeville Historical Society on October 16, 2021.

Maggie Brown (MB): How is everybody doing?

Audience Member: Great, yourself?

MB: Let me tell you how glad I am to welcome you to the new home of the Bronzeville Historical Society. We’re very glad to have you come, and glad you found out about this. We just started and we’ll do this on a regular basis. Ms. Sherry Williams, it’s because of music that I was introduced to her. And so I’m sure part of my musical background is why I would start to be the one who would come and speak today, or just sort of facilitate our conversation.

Audience Member: Or just be a wild woman. (Laughter)

MB: Or just be a wild woman, right. It’s funny, there was a time – so my father is Oscar Brown Jr. (Applause) So he was a Chicagoan. He was here. My grandfather, Oscar Brown Sr., and his brother, Sidney, came up from Edwards, Mississippi. They were five boys, five brothers, and they one by one raised the fare to get themselves up to Howard University and get their education. And those two, my grandfather and his brother, settled here in Chicago. And so he would tell us the stories and things. And then of course, as I was coming along, my father in the sixties, he had written songs like: (Sings) “Breaking up big rocks on the chain gang / Breaking rocks and serving my time / Breaking rocks out here on the chain gang / ‘Cause I been convicted of crime / Hold it steady right there while I hit it.”

Here on 47th and Drexel. And Daddy said they played it and he went up to the band and said, you know, “I’m starting to write. I’d like to write some lyrics, you know, if I could write some lyrics to a song of yours. And I really liked that one. What’s that one?” And they said, “Well, it’s called ‘Work Song,’ because of something we witnessed as small boys growing up in Florida. Men working on the chain gang. And that’s why it’s called ‘Work Song.'” So then he wrote that lyric. Yeah. And then I heard the stories of my grandfather, you know, telling about them coming up in the Great Migration. And my grandfather, he went to Howard and he earned a law degree, right? And so he came to Chicago. He said, “Yeah, I had to start Black people in business so they could afford a lawyer.” (Laughter) So Baldwin Ice Cream, Supreme Life, many others. Some of the buildings are now landmarks. But those were some of the first Black businesses, and my grandfather connected to that. And he helped fight against restrictive housing covenants in Chicago, because we got here thinking it was the promised land, and we were relegated to the little slum area that they had for us, and that was it. And we made the best of it. And we had to flourish in our business, because that’s all we had.

And so, you know, I heard these stories and therefore I came up with a real great appreciation for any and all of this history. And the more I look into it, I find I’m connected to it, you know. And then I’m blessed to just be involved with people who are doing artistic things still, in terms of when we look at this, and how does it continue? Yes, the times changed, and so the music changed, and the people, the audience’s appetite changed for blues. And I’m going to the schools and I tell the people, you know, young people in the classroom, I say, “I know as soon as I start talking about the blues–” (Laughter) Like you know, “Oh God, this is so boring.” And so then I try to write things or say things that will encourage them to realize, no, no, no baby, whatever you’re listening to right now that you think you love, baby, if it weren’t for the blues, we’d be around here dancing the minuet. (Laughter) I’m just saying, you know, somebody was on the thing going (drums a beat). Hambone, two spoons, whatever. And those kinds of things is really – that is at the foundation of the blues, it’s at the foundation of rock and roll, it’s at the foundation of jazz and R&B and whatever y’all listening to, even the little hip hop y’all listening to. It’s like, you can’t get to the top of the stairs if you haven’t hit those bottoms. And the blues and all that stuff was at the foundation. We would not be here if it wasn’t for what’s at the foundation, right?

Audience Member: I didn’t appreciate the blues until I got old enough and had my own blues.

MB: Okay, okay, felt them. Experienced the blues. Right, right.

Audience Member: But they were in the house, because both of my parents were from Mississippi, from Indianola, Mississippi, from the Delta. So they heard the work songs coming out of there. They heard them from the fields, because they picked cotton. But when did you begin looking at and appreciating blues?

MB: I would say the same is true that, you know, as a young person I might’ve been like some of those kids in the classroom. Like, “Oh, here we go.” But because my father and my brother were musicians, and I would be stuck sitting at the club all night with them, you know, watching the show, it helped me. Let me tell you something that really opened a key for me, whether it’s blues – because if it weren’t for blues, there wouldn’t be jazz. And they’re so really closely related. They talked about it in the movie, about how, you know, basically they just kind of had to jazz it up, which meant speed it up in this case more so maybe. So one time I was having to sit there, you know, I’m a little girl, what could I have? Hawaiian Punch or 7 Up and crackers all night, waiting for the show to be over and another set and everything. But one time one of the musicians let me know that, for example, in jazz, when they’re soloing, a really good musician, even a drummer, you’re going to hear the melody. So it’s time for them to take the solo. So I’m just sitting there. But if you really realize what they’re doing, they’re just off the top of their head, they’re really playing their version of the melody. Whether it’s on their saxophone, on their piano, on their drum. And when I really tuned in and figured out that that’s what they were doing, well, it opened up something for me. It helped me appreciate what I was witnessing, you know? And that there is a miraculousness in that spontaneous ability to create.

Then the next challenge was, I was on the band set. It was just going to be my brother on bass, Calvin Brunson on piano, and myself at this place. And so he turned to me and said, “So, are you just gonna like, sing? When you get ready to sing, you got to do stuff all night, like us.” Like, “We never get to stop playing.” That means, in other words, challenging me to improvise. Even when I’m not singing the lyrics and the verse and the chorus, do something. They can’t just stop playing ’cause it ain’t the verse. They always, all night, they gotta play. So like, are you going to be like us? And it was a straight challenge. And I was a lot younger than my brother and his friend, but it made me have more courage, you know? And to step out there and try to say, okay. (Scatting) (Laughter) I just try to, you know, feel it, feel what everybody else is doing, and do something inside of it that’s complimentary, that don’t too much get in the way or, you know, all that kind of stuff. So it kind of “growed me up,” so to speak, when they did that challenge to me.

And then I remember when I had to learn – I was blessed because of Dad, and my grandfather, and I received these stories that made me know that, you know, the stories of blues is what we really love. That was just so wonderful, whenever he would speak, and stories, and the songs. It’s the stories. And so I was gonna say how, as I was coming up, and just kind of learning how to be a good band member, or good vocal artist in front and everything, I just started really enjoying the stories, or the tales, you know? Whether it was the signifying monkey tale, or the watermelon man coming, or the rag man. One thing that I think I was exposed to kind of early, cause I was a little girl, I would watch him on the stage, and he was singing one called “Rags and Old Iron.” And this was just this, oh my God, talk about having the blues and just singing. But it wasn’t just like, the twelve bars. (Sings)

Everybody knows that form. And at first it used to be a lot slower. (Sings) “I hate to see the evening sun go down.” I had to learn that one day, cause I was gonna have this gig with these people from Columbia College. It was going to be a retrospective of Black music. And that was something I was into doing. I was into trying to tell that story, because I just wanted other people to appreciate it like I do, and feel like it’s rich, and it’s something to cherish, and hold up and carry on. I want them to feel like me about it. And so then basically what they were saying was like, “Yeah, the times changed.” It was like – (Scats)

It’s really that same framework, but just with a different, more lively – I say our instruments became amplified and electrified and made it to the bright lights of the city. And so before I just open it up for some conversation, discussion, questions or anything, comments that we have, Michael or Sherry, I’ll just say how I was really inspired. Like I said, I was being a music teacher at St. Thomas the Apostle. This is a private school in Hyde Park, it’s not, you know, the most urban school. And I’ve been to some very urban schools. And it was very sad that I go to the suburbs y’all, and do my show about the history of Black music, and kids participate. I go to my schools, they laughed just when I came on stage. And it hurts you, but you try to find a way to still relate, you know? And just still get us here, right? So one day I was talking about people in history, and the kids at St. Thomas were like (Blows raspberry). I was like, wow. My grandfather, he’s only been gone since 1990. He could not imagine that you would feel this way at my mention of the Johnson brothers that created “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” You’re too bored? You don’t even want to hear that name? You don’t even care? I’m like, oh my God, I know Grandpa didn’t never anticipate this would happen. And it’s bothering me, like he said in that song. He said, “What you said about your mama made me mad.” (Laughter) You know, that’s making me mad. The irreverence that we’re having for our history. Because if we’re acting like we can’t do nothing, it’s probably because we don’t think you can, you know? Cause we don’t realize who we are, what we come from, what’s been done. That we come from that achievement, really. That’s us, we’re from that, right? So then I said, “Well, what makes it a Great Migration? Why should you care?”

Maybe I need to write something about that. And so I said, “I’ll tell you what makes it. Ask me what makes it a Great Migration.” 

Audience: What makes it a Great Migration?

MB: It’s that folks back then would travel great distances to secure a future of positive instances. And though the journey was filled with danger, keeping faith in what’s unseen to my people is no stranger. Did I mention all the miles that they covered in search of their hopes and dreams to discover, seeking a life free of grueling labor and an opportunity to taste the city flavor. (Sings) The way that it moved people out, out from the sharecropper life of the South. The fact that without Jim Crow, hope and progress had a chance to grow. So I’ll tell you what makes it. Y’all say it.

Audience: (Singing) What makes it a Great Migration?

MB: I’ll tell you what makes it. Ask me.

Audience: (Singing) What makes it a Great Migration?

MB: Is that people made a new start in their life, so that their children wouldn’t have the same strife. It gave a chance for a better education to move Black people forward for the new generation. The music moved up as people moved out into new frontiers and venues, no doubt. And jazz got a college education. And jazz spread beyond the nation. Blues, whatever, jazz, blues, spread through cities and across the seas. Without segregation racism could freeze. That music led to more communication, helping improve human relations. (Singing) The fact that it came with a price, the price of many young Americans lives, the fact that it helped them to see, jazz improvisation made the people feel free. Ooh wee. I’ll tell you what makes it. Y’all say it.

Audience: (Singing) What makes it a Great Migration?

MB: I’ll tell you what makes it. Ask me.

Audience: (Singing) What makes it a Great Migration?

MB: New landscapes gave way to seizing opportunity. When folk first arrived, the building of community, my people faced struggles and injustice. In spite of odds, we came to win and you can trust us. (Laughter) And y’all see proof in the metropolis that flourished, making way for the movement which was nourished. Building on unity, forging revolution, standing up for our future, they were marching towards solution. (Singing) The fact that it came with a price, the price of many a Black person’s life, the fact that it helped them to grow, grow up proud enough to wear an afro. So I’ll tell you what makes it. Y’all say it.

Audience: (Singing) What makes it a Great Migration?

MB: I’ll tell you what makes it. Ask me.

Audience: (Singing) What makes it a Great Migration?

MB: Build it on legacy, the history of you and me, and the only way we can be free is building on that unity. (Applause) Any questions or comments?

Audience Member: Well, where are you performing? (Laughter)

MB: Well, yeah, thank the goodness. I’ll be doing things here sometimes. This summer I got to do the Hyde Park Jazz Fest. I just finished out – DuSable had DuSummer series. So last Wednesday, my sister Africa Brown and I – we call ourselves Two Brown Sisters. And we closed out last Wednesday at DuSable at the beautiful courtyard area. So, you know, hopefully there will be more opportunities. February is always a good moment. And the thing that I was talking about, legacy, our wealth of music, it was something that I developed because I knew I wanted to sing and become popular and make a living doing this. But I also came up in edutainment, as my daddy, you know? There’s a way to educate us, to uplift us as we entertain ourselves, not just for the sake of amusement, you know?

And so he planted that seed. And then my grandfather, he had written – he actually wrote a book called By a Thread, because really if you look, our lives are so delicate and any old infraction could happen and it’s like the sinews of a thread, you know? It could just snap any time. We’re just blessed that we’re all still holding on. But he talked about how, as he was coming up, he’d become an officer in the army. And he was going to Edwards, home for a visit, and the men were concerned because they were like, “If these white folks see you dress like all this, with all your stuff on, they’re gonna try to get you.” So they kept him at Westy’s Pool Hall overnight til his train came. And he said after he got on the train, he was like, “Yeah, who were these men? You know, I didn’t know them. Not too long before I had roamed the train station in Edwards myself.” He was like, “These are the people that are unsympathetically known as the masses.” He was like, “Our ascendancy is dependent upon bringing them up and along as we climb.” And he always kind of gave that vibe.

And so then one of my first little raps I wrote, I said: “Brothers and sisters, hear me out / Let me tell you what this song is all about / My grandfather taught me it’s about our community / Me caring for you and you caring for me / Sure, we’ve all got to make a living / But as you climb the ladder, don’t forget about reaching back for brothers and sisters below / Pull them up and along as you go / People of the world today, can we make a better way? / Instead of shooting brothers down til there’s no brothers around / This song could get through to you / There is so much work to do / Brothers, sisters, we got to make that change or we’re through.” Yeah, so those were the seeds that were planted in me.

Sherry Williams (Bronzeville Historical Society president and SSP board member): I like that you brought up the word community, because I don’t know if any of you were following some of the other threads, not just for celebrating, honoring these blues women, but they were throwing in other threads. So I wrote down about Butterbeans and Susie, you know, I started thinking about that. And even though that genre of comedy is, you know, my mother’s generation or before, these references came in our household because these were local people. These were Chicagoans. And so I can’t help but think about even the other thread. When they put in Butterbeans and Susie, I started thinking about Lincoln Perry. And so some of you may know that there’s a Lincoln Perry Apartments on 32nd and Prairie. And so he, at one point, lived there. So Lincoln Perry’s stage name is Stepin Fetchit. And so I kept thinking about all of these things that’s kind of unknown, it’s known by the community. You hear about it, but you don’t really see like, why was that thread connected? Well, just like they had to have safe houses when they were going to Chitlin’ Circuit, or they would go, I think they called it a rabbit foot, you know, it was like vaudeville groups that went and also performed in these small towns in the South. That thread is also in Chicago. You know, when you think of Isaac Hayes living in Chicago.

MB: Herbie’s from here. So many. So many. Yeah, there really are. I was talking about how a lot of people live on each coast now, but this was their fertilizing ground, you know? They left from here.

SW: And, Michael? He might’ve stepped out, but he shared with me that he lived next door to a filmmaker. Who made the movie Shaft?

Michael Phillips: Gordon Parks.

SW: Gordon Parks. But then who made the movie, it was another movie that came after that. Melvin [Van] Peebles. (Audience responds) Northeastern Illinois University. So there’s a lot of things that we don’t know. And I’d be curious to find out those blues artists that were presented. Did any of you all learn a new name? Because I learned a new name. (Audience agrees) You know, I didn’t know anything about Alberta, what was it, Hunter? (Audience agrees) I tried to find out where Ma Rainey – I’m sorry, Bessie Smith was here. I was trying to find out where she lived at. But there are so many narratives looking at Koko Taylor, and this whole piece just put the icing on the cake for me, to have them go to someone who was a seasoned veteran, someone who had transcended, basically, two generations of blues, from working the fields to the 1910s and twenties, and then here she had that modern version of how those blues had this sort of cadence, a sort of mark that defined it as blues music. Generally a song about somebody done you wrong, or maybe done you right. (Audience responds) Sometimes the bills get paid, sometimes they don’t.

Audience Member #2: I was just thinking, why was it called Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues? Don’t Sing the Blues?

MB: Wild Women Don’t Have, right.

Audience Member #2: Why was it called that? Because I didn’t see, throughout the movie I didn’t really see these women not expressing their blues. Because most of it was about the hardships. So I was just wondering why they call it that. Cause that’s a very intriguing title, and I would love to hear more about women –

Audience Member #3: If I had to guess, I would think that back in those times, like when they said Ma Rainey and Bessie, they would come out and they would shimmy and all these things. And you know like when they said with religion, you wouldn’t do that. And that was attributed to wild women like, what was her name? The white version. She started out older. What was her name? Mae West. And for her, people were like, “Oh no, you don’t do those things.” And so a lot of these things, like you said, it’s something that you don’t speak about, because society as a whole, these are not the things that you do. So they would do these things, they had the juke joints, you know? And I was trying to figure out some of the things. And if you look back and you go back to slavery, like if anyone watches Black-ish, he said, “I can tell you every day is related to slavery.”

And if you think about it, a lot of things that we did had to be hush-hush, from the songs that they sung that no one else knew about. And so these things, you know like you see in communities and stuff, we’re not going to tell everybody. And I said, you got to treat information like gossip. You don’t ask for gossip. I’m telling you whether you want to hear it or not. You know, you need to say, “Shh.” But we don’t treat information like that. And we’re not talking. But I’m still trying to – cause a lot of these things to me is psychological. And we have to look at even like, subliminal things. The psychiatrists tell you, if you show it every day, repeat it every day, it will resonate in your head. Like they say, subconscious until it incorporates and you don’t even realize. How many of you, when you’re young, you’re like, “Dang, I’m acting like my mother.” (Laughter) And you didn’t intentionally try to do that. Or your surroundings. Those things are interesting. And they don’t talk about it. But this is so curious, cause I’m trying to figure this one out. When you said the young white youth knew about this in the classroom and they gravitated towards it, and not the Black –

MB: Or just more accepting of the information. More accepting, more like a sponge. Like, “What do you got for me?” And my kids are like – (Blows raspberry)

Audience Member #3: But you know, why is that? And I say, you know, and I try to figure that out because –

MB: It’s a remnant of slavery. It’s remnant, yes, conditioned. It’s a remnant of slavery.

Audience Member #3: Because it could be something conditioned, or something, you know, totally different, like, it’s conquer and divide. Like I didn’t know and I was telling somebody, I said, “Man, so we all come from Africa, go to Haiti and all of this, and if you look at it, the thing is you can connect it.” Like Cuba. You know, we say, “Cue-ba.” What was her name? That great singer. And I just happened to hear her. I said she was really good. What was it? Celia Cruz. Oh my God. (Audience responds) Beautiful.

MB: You were mentioning repetition, and then you had asked me earlier, Sherry, about, when did you start? Because yeah, you don’t necessarily just come out appreciating the blues. But yeah, my brother would play with, sometimes – he played with Koko a few times. But Big Time Sarah, and Sugar Blue, who was a harmonica player. Alright, so again, I gotta be there, I gotta listen. And after a while you learn. You do gain an appreciation, you know? Whether it’s cause you know some of the band members, or you watch it long enough that you realize like, oh my God, he’s cutting up. Like, wow, okay. You know? And so exposure means a lot.

Audience Member #1: The first time my father took me to Theresa’s in the basement, and you have to watch them going down to get in there, and it was this nasty – it was a hole in the wall. The building is abandoned, except for the basement had Theresa’s Lounge. And it had the best music, the best fun. And that’s when I began appreciating that blues music was communal. That it was a relationship. Like everybody has got a part in it, like many of the artists said.

MB: The call and response of the audience and everything.

Audience Member #4: And just improvising.

Audience Member #5: You can feel it. You can feel it. I grew up on it, and I absolutely love it. And my children, they’re grown men now. They still will play some. Not much.

MB: Right, right, right.

Audience Member #5: I grew up on it, as well as R&B.

MB: In Chicago?

Audience Member #5: In Chicago. I grew up here.

MB: Do you remember places like where you could go to hear it?

Audience Member #5: Lee’s Unleaded Blues.

MB: Lee’s.

Audience Member #5: Teresa’s.

MB: Teresa’s.

Audience Member #5: I was underage sneaking into Teresa’s.

MB: Now, would Palm Tavern have blues? Would Palm kind of have those –

Audience Member #6: Palms had jazz.

MB: Mostly jazz. Yeah. Were there some blues spots right up around here y’all? I know Dad talked about  Rhumboogie, One Thirteen, and a few others.

Audience Member #6: Those was all more jazz, because we grew up in this area.

MB: By that time. Sort of like that change the movie talked about. There was an era where there was like, well, kind of out with the old, in with the new now, right? Yeah. And I was thinking of how the raunchiness, you know, or the promiscuousness or whatever. I have a real issue – I’ve got eighteen, twenty, and twenty-two year old sons. So you know, I’ve got a real issue with the stuff that’s out these days, what’s supposed to entertain us. Whether it’s the movies, the music, the games, all that, right? And so I mean, I know that – like sometimes I look at it and I’m like, you know, when my grandparents started hearing whatever we were listening to, they were like, “Oh, oh no, that’s just so terrible.” Well baby, that compared to what we’re dealing with now? In which case, obviously it’s something that repeats every time. The new generation thinks what the old generation is doing is yuck, and the old generation thinks what the new generation is doing is too much and over the top. But I don’t know y’all, right now this really is. It’s beyond. (Audience crosstalk) Are there any blues places now? (Audience crosstalk) South of 12th Street.

Audience Member #7: Berwyn.

Audience Member #8: Matter of fact that’s where I’m going Tuesday.

Audience Member #7: Oh, look at you. I need somebody who likes the blues. (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member #8: I’ve been there five times within this month, and I’m going Tuesday.

MB: Wait, wait, go back. Where you been five times in a month? (Laughter)

Audience Member #8: Fitzgerald’s.

MB: Fitzgerald’s is in Berwyn. And that’s what, ninety-something and –

Audience Member #9: Odyssey. The Odyssey on 99th and Torrence on Friday and Saturday.

MB: I’ve probably seen that, okay. They have blues?

Audience Member #9: They have the best blues. (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member #10: What kind of a woman are you to leave home at ten? (Laughter) Fourteen and fifteen. And they were going to call you loose and all of that. What did they say? Marching to a different drummer. They’re not following what society dictates that a female should be doing or what she should be interested in.

MB: How about you just clean your own toilets and you mop your floors? It’s not what I’m going to do.

SW: I want to talk a little bit about the vernacular, because I really enjoyed the fact that he spoke about the term Ma. And I know that in our community most people call me Mama Sherry, and I adore that because I love being a mother, right? But some of the other things that I really found fascinating was “back him in my stall.” So while we’re talking about the way that music has just vulgar or outright cursing, they had these innuendos for what they were doing. But you knew what they were talking about without them saying the word, right? I like the fact that she was about “strong backed women.” That’s what they were looking for to be employed coming up, and the songs resonated about how women’s roles were. Or how we were defined, or even how we define ourselves. There were so many little things that were said that were part of the vernacular that I found fascinating. He said the many people that migrated – say like he went to Chicago. They came because they wanted to walk tall. And then when he mentioned about Burnside, Illinois, I’m trying to figure out where that was. (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member: Over on 95th. That’s the area that’s called Burnside. It’s not a town.

MB: It’s a neighborhood.

Audience Member: And the people, when they were – the migration, and they were saying that they would come begging for help. Like today. People are begging for help. (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member: When they did the migration they would come, all live in a tiny apartment, split the rent. So why do we keep saying we don’t help each other? Where did that lie come from? (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member #3: It’s still there. I can make you believe, if I put this out, this is subliminal messaging. So I always tell people, I say I love television. And they’re like, oh, I don’t watch it. And I say, it’s almost like you have to know what to look for and all of that. So when television now, what you’re seeing, and you think about it – it was first whites. That’s all that you heard about. And then when Blacks came, and we started coming for the better jobs. “They’re taking our jobs.” Does this sound similar? “You’re taking our jobs.” “Why do you want to always be seen?” “Oh, you need to have this in place.” Does that sound similar to the next group that’s coming up, which are the Latinos. The same thing. And then we don’t get it because we’ve forgotten about it. They come here and they bring their families, right? There’s ten and twelve, because look, the economy. You had that. You had to, if you had everybody in the house, you’ve got one light bill, one this, and everyone could divide, and you’re able to branch off. Now if you were well-to-do, you didn’t need your family to stay with you. And so when you conquer and divide, you don’t see that, you know, because what? A lot of us are not reading because the situation is no different than it was back in the day. And if they’re not going to put it out there in the television, things like this, you know, we’re learning from each other and stuff. It’s like I said, and I’m gonna say it again. You got to treat this information like gossip. Hey, you should come to this. Right? People, you know, you tell them and somebody’s like, “Oh, what?” And especially use the word free, then you’re going to get them to come, you know? And then that’s how they do it. They put it out there and this is how it grows. Money, you know, we let money dictate. Doesn’t necessarily have to be the truth.

Audience Member: I ain’t never had no money, so. (Laughter) (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member #3: There are people who didn’t have money that became multimillionaires or whatever.

Audience Member: Those women who pushed the envelope, despite them not having, say, the big contract to come into a studio, like you might hear about Beyonce or others, right? Regardless of it being lucrative, regardless of them getting some kind of income from it, they did this work because they were passionate about it. And then the money came, you know, for some. And for some it didn’t. But the fact that they had to create an underground economy, which like you said, so much has been lost. When my family, you know, it wasn’t an exception that you left home at eighteen and got a job, or went to the military, or got married. It wasn’t an exception. It was expected. My mom, she would like give us hints when we were sixteen, like, “You know you ain’t gonna be here at eighteen. You do know that, right?” (Audience crosstalk) She was letting us know, there’s no option.

Audience Member #3: Look at other countries. Girls are getting married at that age because of society or having to grow up. I said, man, you think about eleven and twelve can make biscuits from scratch. How many of us pop a can open and put it in the oven? And they were sewing, and they could cook from scratch. And now we get Martha Stewart steamed and measured. And so we buy into that and you got to learn, let me unlearn what I’ve been taught and go back. Because we really are gonna go back to the roots because if you look at it, all this processed food is quicker. You can do a hundred other things. (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member: I wanted to say two things. When you were talking about vernacular, anytime somebody talks about vernacular in music, I just think about my mom and them laughing at us when we put on a performance with “Between the Sheets.” And you know, we were fluffing the sheets up. And today’s music, they just say it.

MB: And we thought that was risque. (Audience crosstalk)

Audience Member: We just thought they was dancing and running between the sheets. And we just thought we were cool cause my mom and them was laughing. We was in the house doing a talent show.

MB: Nice and innocent.

Audience Member: So I just thought, yeah, that’s interesting how they just say it. They just say it. And the other thing I wanted to say about the Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues. I’m going to throw Mavis Staples in there. So maybe about ten or fifteen years ago, on the east side, I’m coming out of a place of business and talking to somebody, and I’ve looked, and I kept looking. And I walked over to her. She had a Newport Jazz t-shirt. I didn’t even recognize that at first. I said, “Excuse me, miss, you look just like Mavis Staples.” (Laughter) And she came out with that iconic voice, “I am Mavis Staples.” She looked at me, she said, “How you know me? You’re young.” I said, “I know Pops too.” So for me, music was either at my paternal grandmother, or maternal grandmother, my great uncles. And my Uncle Levi, God rest his soul, he was married to, he told us, Ethel Waters, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald. We thought these women were his wives from those beautiful album covers. So we were always waiting for his wives to come over. And one day my grandmama just bust our butt because we really believed him. That’s how we heard different genres of music. And it just all sounded good.

MB: Your family loving it can help you learn to love it. Michael, thanks for making sure we could see this. (Applause)