Oh, my, my, my.
When I was a teenager, after singing in the church choir for years, I got to be a soloist in the high school glee club. I also started singing rock-n-roll. I could do Joni Mitchell, of course, but I could also do Robert Plant, of Led Zeppelin, better than Robert Plant could. Grace Slick was my vocal hero, pushing out a strong, searing soprano at a time when there were very few female rockers doing lead for a band of guys. I gigged with various musicians through my twenties and rooted for my sister pioneers — Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Bonnie Raitt, Chrissie Hynde, Deborah Harry, the Wilson sisters of Heart — favoring a down-and-dirty blues-rock style when someone would let me get away with it. After years of torquing my mezzo voice and long before I ever heard the song “Riot in Cell Block No. 9,” I got my longest lead-singer gig by belting out a loud, raspy, wailing version of “Jailhouse Rock” on the audition, to the utter shock and enormous delight of the guys in the band.
Years later, I mean decades later, I heard a voice on the radio one night that electrified me. It was the voice I aspired to produce as a young singer. It was still the voice I heard in my heart and head when I laid down a blues lyric or sang with the car radio. It was the voice of my spiritual rock-n-roll godmother, Wanda Jackson, who started down the rockin’ road shortly after Elvis. At last, I knew where I came from, I knew who started us sweet, choir-singing white girls down the path of true rock-n-roll. It was Wanda, all along.
Wanda, darlin’, congratulations for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you ‘Hard-Headed Woman’ you.
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