Once upon a time when music albums were carved into vinyl, I had one called Phoenix, which was released in 1975 by the singing group LaBelle.
Composed of singers Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash, Labelle is probably best known the song “Lady Marmalade” released in ’74. Forebears to Madonna and GaGa, LaBelle sang out loud about life, sex, and equality. They fully appreciated their power as women, yet their unabashed confidence and their refusal to present themselves as a traditional “girl” group ironically caused some to speculate that they were men in drag. (Similar rumors circulated about the late great Donna Summer, who also cast herself as a grown woman and sexual being).
At 15, as I am now, I was drawn to uninhibited outpourings, and this album more than fits the bill. In particular, the song “Phoenix: The Amazing Flight of a Lone Star” speaks to me so strongly, with its beautiful lyrics. Despite the abandon of it all, the singing and soaring harmonies are completely in control.
Packed away in crates in the back of my closet, I have tons of albums I haven’t played in many years but I would never think to part with them. Yesterday as I was populating a new MP3 player (I wore the last one out), “Phoenix” popped into my head. I was surprised and delighted to find it on You Tube and elsewhere as a free MP3 download. (I should figure out how to turn my albums into MP3s.)
I’m so happy “Phoenix” has risen again.
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2012