Artist Reference Points

memphis-minnie 

Memphis Minnie in my humble opinion is the first female rock, blues, or even punk singer. My artwork is based on the blues. Blues music is expression. It’s storytelling through lyrical poetry and rhymes. I remember a professor of mine as an English Literature major who discredited, and described my poetry as “childish and that has too many rhymes.” I told him I was influenced by blues songs, and that didn’t appeal to him whatsoever. He regarded what he knew best. He spent an hour in class explaining the styles of Yates or Frost that didn’t appeal to me. The blues is the reason we have rock and roll. It didn’t merely influence rock, it created it. It holds Southern African American traditions. Memphis Minnie like Sister Rosetta Stone bent notes, she didn’t play melodic riffs like Sister Rosetta who is the inventor of rock & roll. Memphis was very experimental with her vocals and expressions. She threw in short notes. She sang a few words, moaned, chanted and shouted. She made animal sounds. She sounded ridiculous at times, and still created meaning. She is the first punk vocalist to ever pick a guitar and holler.

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I find Iggy Pop’s work to be compelling because he is a rebel, punk and an artistic icon. He was that somewhat mainstream because he emerged from the underground music scene, and remained loyal to it. He refuses to play at stadiums, arguing that it’s not a setting for his art. He still plays shows, and I believe Iggy is one of those seldom mentioned idols who pushed art punk or avant punk into popular consciousness. I saw him perform at the Orpheum theatre. He still closely interacts with the audience, like he is in a small venue. Below is one of my favorite Iggy interviews. The utter honesty of his answers, and his humble and candid credo, are the reasons why. Within he conveys ideas about the art of the event, and living it, in his performance:

Iggy Pop interview on the Tom Snyder Show 1980

I can relate to Iggy’s thinking. He is an artsy performer who embraced ancient theatrical concepts. He is spontaneous and chaotic. Iggy Pop popularized underground new wave music. His sound reached me in the Middle-East, and he didn’t sound conventional. I liked his lyrics too, influenced by the blues that I listened to. He got to express himself, and be violent about, with no preservation. He has fun expressing himself while performing, he isn’t focusing on the performance he already know, he is expressing it truthfully. The Dionysian element in his performance was liberating to watch on rare videos. I was influenced by his performance. I learned that performing poetry, and music doesn’t have to be structured, and we are free to be impulsive. In the real world, our impulsivity is frowned upon. Yet with artists, spontaneity is praised. He is very emotional, or was as he seems more stable now.  He didn’t mind displaying disruptive behavior. He was disturbed and got to express it as an artist. He conveyed his disturbance openly, and it was applauded. He’s an extremely talented and witty songwriter. He assisted other artists in avoiding the boredom of the cliches, and the stereotypical “rock stars” in mainstream media.

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