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Joan of Arc

ae 4joanThe strange career trajectory of Joan Osbourne 

Joan Osbourne’s 1995 hit “One of Us” helped to define the wispy, female-flower-power sound of the Lillith Fair era. Unfortunately, some of her contemporaries let the era define them.

Osbourne though, turned out to be full of surprises. First, there was her remarkably soulful work in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, about unsung Motown heroes the Funk Brothers, and her emergence around the same time as a preeminent interpreter of other people’s songs confused some of her mainstream audience.

They shouldn’t have been so surprised, since even “One of Us” was a cover (it was written by Hooters frontman Eric Bazilian). But since the rise of singer-songwriters in the ’60s, there’s been a certain stigma around singer-songwriters putting the emphasis on “singer” instead of “songwriter.”

“In pop music, it’s sort of been looked down upon in the last 40 years or so if you don’t write your own material,” Osbourne tells GT. “It still has a little bit of an aura of ‘you’re not a real artist.’”

But over the course of the last decade, Osbourne has actually done a remarkable job of balancing covers and original songs, across a broad and twisting range of genres, from country to Christmas songs.

In that time, she’s grown by leaps an bounds as an interpreter—her last album of covers, 2012’s soul/R&B tour-de-force Bring It On Home, was her best.

So what makes for a great cover song, in Osbourne’s mind? She has a couple rules. First, “if you can’t do anything with it, leave it alone.” But even if she thinks she can bring something new and different to a song, she knows thinking alone will only take her so far.

“You can conceptualize it all you want,” she says. “But the song has to play you.”

With her new album, Love and Hate, she’s swung back around to originals, with a complex, emotional record. But there’s one rule she lives by that applies to every song she does, whether or not she wrote it.

“I try to only perform songs that I love,” she says. “If you put a song on a record, there’s a good chance you’re going to be singing that song hundreds of times a year.”


Joan Osbourne performs Friday, June 6, at 8 p.m. at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz. $28/gen, $42/gold. 423-8209.

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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