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Commentary Last Updated: Mar 6th, 2007 - 01:26:47

Blues for chicks
By Jack Balkwill
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Mar 6, 2007, 01:09

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Since women do most of the work in the movement for social justice, the peace movement, the environmental movement, human rights, and the rest of the progressive agenda, including providing for the majority of the leadership, I often write encouragement at Liberty Underground, to get women to take one more step, so that our movement for a better world doesn�t crash and burn.

The dirty little secret is that women have always done it, and without their work, the whole damned system would fall apart. The hungry wouldn�t get fed, the sick wouldn�t get healed, and the loneliness wouldn�t get loved away without the devotion of women willing to work for nothing.

And if you do progressive actions long enough, as this old man has, you learn that to do it well you have to be willing to do it for nothing. Women have always done the most important work in our society without pay -- the rearing of the children, teaching of morality and being the feminine rock children see as the center of the world. If there is a problem, any problem at all, every child knows that mom can solve it.

In the meditation classes I teach, a young woman once told me that women were unable to sing blues music, to my astonishment. I asked her if she ever heard Bonnie Raitt sing, and she said she hadn�t. Bessie Smith? No. Billie Holiday? No. I told her there are a lot of great woman blues singers going back to the birth of the blues.

A number of my students have told me about being sexually molested by their fathers, being raped, and other things that leave hatreds in them which eventually manifest in physical problems that go away when I show them how to do emotional healing. It�s easy to teach, I have taken knowledge from ancient Asian great masters and simply pass it on, but it�s hard to listen to the stories, filled with pain as they are.

This beautiful young lady had been convinced by her boyfriend that women were not capable of singing blues music as it is supposed to be performed. I suspected he beat her, too, because she often had bruises. She needed a lot of healing.

No woman has ever been president, vice president or chief justice of the Supreme Court. No woman has ever headed the Defense Department, the CIA or the FBI. There is absolutely no reason for this other than institutional sexism, but it is easy to see why a young woman may get confused about feminine potential for doing things like singing the blues.

Since most of my meditation students are women, and most of my students come to me for physical and emotional healing, I have become accustomed to this. I even changed the name of my basic meditation course from an �Introduction to Meditation� to �Healing Meditation,� when people started coming great distances to learn how to heal their diseases.

Even scientists come, and I give them the Harvard Medical School studies, because they seem to want to get the information from that kind of source, although the knowledge predates Western medicine by thousands of years. It healed people just as well then, without Harvard�s blessing. The oldest human writing, the Sanskrit, embraced meditation over 6 thousand years ago, as a thing to be worshipped.

In my meditation, I imagine the blues was invented by a black man in Mississippi. I see him sitting in a rocking chair on a sharecropper�s porch, picking a guitar with notes he has ripped from the depth of his soul. He has been kicked in the teeth all his life, denied an education, denied a decent job, but his brain is as good as that of any genius or he wouldn�t have been able to come up with anything as complex as the blues.

When you meditate deeply enough, you see things through the mind clutter that usually gets in the way of understanding. There, it is possible to find a clearing where you can see the blues as the highest music form, extending into the heart as well as the mind, feelings played on guitar strings, harmonicas and even lowly cowbells.

Women know about the feelings that bleed into the blues. Women have their hearts broken, watch family members die, get robbed and raped. Women can sing the blues very well, indeed, sometimes taking it to levels men do not sense in their experiences.

Bonnie Raitt says you cannot play the blues with new guitar strings, because they don�t have funk in them. You have to have funk in the strings, and a blues musician senses it in the way the string vibrates. The black man on the Mississippi porch had very old guitar strings, and no money for new ones. He had to make old ones work into his pattern, and maybe did without a string at times.

It only costs a dollar to download songs on the Internet. You don�t have to download the whole album, just the song you like, which is amazing to an old man like me. Everyone should download blues songs by women, some of the most beautiful music ever made.

Everyone should have Janis Joplin�s �Piece a� My Heart,� which is really a piece of her heart. A scientist may not be able to prove that it�s true, but a blues fan feels a piece of her heart in it and knows it�s there.

�Didn�t I make you feel like you were the only man -YEAH!
And didn�t I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can?
Honey, you know I did!
And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I�ve had enough,
But I�m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.

�I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, BREAK IT!
Break another little bit of my heart now darlin.��

Everyone should have Bonnie Raitt�s �Wild for You Baby.� It should be required by law that everyone who doesn�t have a dollar get it for free -- we should tax the rich to pay for it. Hell, the working class does enough for them.

I could get carried away and do this all day, but will simply stop here and go with two ladies who create beautiful blues. Nancy Wilson on lead guitar and her sister Ann doing vocals, in a number of songs.

Like the old standard, �Tell it Like it Is,� which they have mastered, this is a woman�s song anyhow. Stop what you are doing and buy it right now.

Or �Sweet Darlin,�� which should be played to little girls until they all understand that women can indeed sing beautiful blues. They should not be allowed to grow up thinking women have limitations.

Or my favorite of the Wilson sisters, which I encourage everyone who reads this to download right now. Don�t take another breath until you do this. And whatever you do, don�t die until you listen to it once more, no matter how many times you have listened to it. �Down on Me� (sample it) from the Bebe le Strange album. No man has ever done a blues song better than this.

Chairman Mao of the People�s Republic said that �women hold up half the sky.� In the progressive movement, they hold up a lot more than half. And they sing damn pretty music while they hold it up there.

Jack Balkwill does the web site Liberty Underground of Virginia (LUV) and has written for publications as varied as the little-read English Honor Society�s Rectangle to the millions of readers USA Today. He can be reached at

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