Posted July, 2011
John Lennon had been murdered the previous December and I’m in the process of organizing and promoting a concert at my church by the former drummer of Paul McCartney and Wings, Joe English. English had “crossed over” to the Contemporary Christian Music (“CCM”) genre as many other secular artists had. To say things were a little nutty because of the whole Lennon/McCartney association would be an understatement. My phone was ringing off the hook with people representing various levels of instability just wanting to be close to anything “Beatles”.It was early 1981.
Yeah, it was a bit scary.
However, one time my phone rang and it was Joe English’s manager asking me if I would mind terribly if Bonnie Bramlett could open for Joe’s concert. As long as it wasn’t going to tax my already strained and skimpy budget, I didn’t care. To be honest, at that time I wasn’t as immersed into rock and roll history and royalty to fully appreciate just who Ms. Bramlett was. After the call, I did my homework and quickly realized just how lucky I was to get that opportunity presented to me.
Ms. Bramlett was the “Bonnie” on the iconic rock husband and wife duo, Delaney & Bonnie. Mr. and Mrs. Bramlett enjoyed chart making hits such as a cover of Dave Mason’s Only You Know and I Know and their own Never-Ending Song of Love. They shared the stage with such huge names as George Harrison, Dave Mason, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and ton of others.
A prolific songwriter, she’s co-written such songs as Superstar and Give Peace a Chance with Leon Russell as well as Let It Rain with Eric Clapton. If you’ve never seen Bonnie sing Superstar, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Check out the video of her performing that tune on the YouTube clip shown on this page.
After she and Delaney split up (both professionally and matrimonially), Bonnie went on to pursue her solo career, supported by a band that wasn’t very well known at the time: The Average White Band. Throughout the seventies, she released three albums (It’s Time, Lady’s Choice and Memories) with the legendary label, Capricorn Records. When she wasn’t busy with her solo work, she was providing backup vocals for some of the biggest and diverse names in music. Folks like Joe Cocker, Dwight Yoakum, Carly Simon and Joe Cocker, again, just to name a few. In fact, with her work with the Allman Brothers, she is the only woman to earn the title as the only “Allman Sister”. How cool is that?
Anyway, back to the concert.
The Saturday before the concert, I got a small taste of what I was in for with Ms. Bramlett. On Saturday Night Live Delbert McClinton performed his hit song at the time, Giving It Up for Your Love, which Bonnie sang back-up on the record as well as that performance. In my opinion, she stole the show.
The following Wednesday night was the concert. My gosh! When Bonnie Bramlett took the stage as the opening act, I was totally and completely blown away by the raw power and soul that woman projected. I definitely got an education in the power of performing. She seemed to embody rhythm, blues, rock and soul all in one body. She sang it like she invented it and drove it like she stole it. And, yet, there was such a gentleness and sincerity about her that, when she spoke or hugged your neck (Yeah! She gave me big ol’ long hug after her performance!), you knew that this woman was as real and genuine as a human being could be.
Over the years, I’ve kept up with Ms. Bramlett, catching her appearances in movies, (The Doors and The Guardian) or her regular role on the hit TV show, Rosanne as well as a guest role on Fame. In the past year, the R&B icon blipped large on my Boomerocity radar when I came in contact with her daughter, Michele (Delaney’s daughter from his previous relationship with Patty Stanley). An interview with Michele soon resulted.
In the months since that interview, I’ve kept in touch with Michele and the work she is tirelessly pursuing. In recent weeks, Michele was kind enough to arrange a phone interview with “Baba” (Bonnie). It was the first time we had spoken with each other since that Joe English concert over 30 years ago. When I called Bonnie for our interview, our first few minutes were spent reminiscing about that show.
At one point, Bonnie asked me, “Don’t you think we were way ahead of our time in gospel music? I mean, c’mon!” I thought about her question for a few seconds and had to agree with her. While there were definitely other “secular” artists who had crossed over into contemporary gospel music as well as some Christian metal bands and the like, there really wasn’t anyone who reflected the kind of R&B that Bonnie and friends helped pioneer. Bonnie agreed.
“Nobody was playing slide guitar! The slide just wasn’t happening yet! They
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