I Can Stand a Little Rain
Esther Phillips w/Beck, 1975
After last week’s vinyl session, I had my requisite ‘oh my god – why did I stop listening to vinyl?’ moment that I have every time I listen to only mp3s for a while (and consequently stare at my computer screen way more than is necessary). I’ve been listening to records everyday since and in one week I’ve come across samples from Ghostface Killah, Common, Tanya Morgan, Brand Nubian, Nickodemus & Osiris and Charlie Dark (that’s what I call positive reinforcement). Unfortunately, none of those songs quite warrant posting in their entirety. But there have been plenty of other jewels, including this one by Esther Phillips.
The few songs I know of hers are from the 70′s but apparently they are from her second comeback. She had a bunch of hits in 1950 at the age of 15 but record label changes and heroin addiction quickly put an end to that (I guess they started young even back then). Kenny Rogers (of all people) helped bring her back to prominence in the early 60′s. That was followed with another bout with heroin. Her third coming was in the early 70′s when she recorded the song that I know her for best – her cover of Gil Scott-Heron’s brutal (see lyrics below) and classic “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.” Half of the people that I’ve talked to about this song thought that her version was the original which isn’t surprising after reading about her long term addiction (she died from liver and kidney failure at the age of 48).
A junkie walking through the twilight
I’m on my way home
I left three days ago, but noone seems to know I’m gone
Home is where the hatred is
Home is filled with pain and it
Might not be such a bad idea if I never went home again
Stand as far away from me as you can and ask me why
Hang onto your rosary beads
Close your eyes and watch me die
You keep saying, kick it, quit it
Lord, but did you ever try?
To turn your sick soul inside out
So that the world
Can watch you die
Home is where I live inside my white powder dreams
Home was once an empty vacuum
That’s filled now with my silent screams
Home is where the needle marks
Try to heal my broken heart
It might not be such a bad idea if I never went home again
[Repeat verse 2]
That album, “From a Whisper to a Scream” earned her a Grammy nomination in 1972. This album contained her disco-y version of Dinah Washington’s “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes,” which was her biggest hit in 12 years (but sounds like a misguided reworking from the Verve Remixed series – her voice just isn’t suited for it). This song, on the other hand, seems perfect for her weathered vocals. I was hoping the Beck in “w/Beck” was Jeff Beck but it’s Joe Beck who I don’t know anything about.
Record companies renaming albums to get more sales is on my list of useless pet peeves. All indications point to this album being called “Esther Phillips w/Beck” and Esther Phillips being the listed artist but after “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes” became a big hit, it appears the album was re-branded as “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes” by “Esther Phillips w/Beck.” And by “all indications” I mean, well, um, one indication – that my album cover has one of those add-on red corner-banners that says “Includes What A Diff’rence A Day Makes!” So…I’m taking a stand for historical accuracy! …talk about not knowing when to pick my battles.
Songs are available for two weeks.