CrushedVelvet leaves us with a story that may very well have fortified her against that racism and sexism. It’s about an event with Dolly Parton she attended as a child. All the other girls around her, when Ms. Parton asked who they liked, said Nancy Wilson or Aretha Franklin. And CrushedVelvet broke with the mold to proudly say she wanted to sing like Patsy Cline. Dolly asked, “Who said that?” And when she raised her hand, Dolly told her, “You just keep on singing Patsy Cline.” She smiles and laughs, “Yes Dolly I did. … That’s the kind of thing that’s so important to young people. Like ‘Oh, it’s wonderful that you’re different.’”
Her music career hit a lot of bumps due to racism and sexism. She says her whole career has been marked by “having a really difficult time in the industry because I’m a black woman singing rock, and then having a hard time in the industry because I’m a woman.” But she retains all of herself, and it shows in her music, “This is just me. It’s authentic, you may not like it. … I think it’s important now for this music to come out,” as a love letter to other people in her position, imploring them to just be themselves in their art.
She was dropped from her label for turning down a proposition. When she went back to her bandmates and told them, “You know what they said to me? ‘Why didn’t you do it?’” She says from then on, sex underlied her every rock and roll interaction. While she hesitated around the phrasing, CrushedVelvet made it clear: “I’m not going to f*** my way to the bottom.” And she maintained this philosophy for decades, as gender discrimination remained a common theme.
It wasn’t just gender. In trying to find people to play with, she was often met with the question, “Well do you play white rock or black rock?” She’s not afraid to say, “What does that mean? When I get truthful all rock is black rock.”
Despite these hardships it was the music that helped her perservere and carry one. She says, “music for me–it saved my life… I don’t really find much pleasure in life. I know it sounds kind of dark. When you can’t or don’t do your art, your life becomes sort of half-lived.”
This track off her latest EP, Better Late Than Never available now. This album is a self-described comeback thirty years in the making. She says,
Better Late Than Never was supposed to happen 25 years ago. But the industry, she isn’t scared to say, has not been so welcoming to her. And it’s no surprise that it’s because of her gender–and melanin. It’s kind of a retrospective of all the years in music and I think that it holds up. It’s my statement to myself that I can do this, my music is valid, and it’s important and it’s real.”
The song was co-written with Lise Hamilton and is a paradoxical little tune about blowing up one’s marriage because that grass also seems greener. If it’s not the infectious beats and bass rhythms that get you it’s the smart and cautionary tale of wanderlust that begs for your attention.