Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Naughty Bits: If I Can‘t Sell It, I‘ll Keep Sitting On It

Ruth Brown: If I Can‘t Sell It, I‘ll Keep Sitting On It


The internet has no tone of voice. If you can find a website that has the lyrics for If I Can‘t Sell It, I‘ll Keep Sitting On It, you won’t have any idea why this song fits our theme this week. It’s all about the tone of voice. Not a word of this song is improper in any way, but there is no doubt what Ruth Brown really means when you hear it. The song is not about furniture. This is the art of double entendre at its best. In case you miss it, the woozy horn parts are another signal that things are not quite as they seem on the surface.

Ruth Brown began her musical career in the 1950s as an rhythm and blues singer. Her best-known song is still Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean. Later in her career, Brown reinvented herself as a jazz singer. The common thread is the blues. In fact, if you go back and listen to her old R&B songs, you will hear a lot of jazzy blues in them anyway. By 1989, when Keep Sitting On It came out, R&B had changed completely from those early days. Brown had not changed all that much, and she sounded as good as ever.

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