03-27-19 | Songs for Listening | René Marie
René Marie, the exceptional jazz singer, picked tunes at Songs for Listening for Wednesday, March 27. René was was born in 1955 in Warrenton, VA. After an early start singing, she stopped and got married, raised a family and worked as a janitor, at McDonald’s, in a grocery store clerk, and as a banker teller. At the age of 42, she took up the music again and found some success. Her husband was initially supportive, but things changed and he issued her an ultimatum: stop singing or leave their home. Tension over the issue escalated from emotional abuse to domestic violence — she left the house and the marriage behind.
She says it like this:
“Something happens when you get up on stage and start making music. Another part of your personality comes to life. I had kind of pushed that down over the years, but because of the music, I was able to speak up and defend myself. So when my husband gave me that ultimatum, it wasn’t that I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have to sing.’ It was more like, ‘I don’t think I want to live with anybody who thinks it’s okay to issue an ultimatum like that.'"
Since reemerging as a singer, René has released 11 albums, the last four for Motema Music. She is amongst the very finest working jazz singers — she's got a classic voice that can alternately seduce you or shout you to dancing. What distinguishes her, more than anything, is how she's able to get under the skin of a song — in performance she stakes a level of commitment that exists outside the range of most other singers. There are other fine jazz singers, but René is the one I'd be most likely to lay down money to see play live.
'Trouble of the World' performed by Mahalia Jackson from 'Bless This House'
'St. James Infirmary' performed by Allen Toussaint from 'The Bright Mississippi'
'Not Cause I Wanted To' by Bonnie Raitt from 'Slipstream'
'Woody 'N' You' by Bud Powell from 'Blues in the Closet'
'Ranky Tanky' by Ranky Tanky from 'Ranky Tanky'