Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Wonderland: Snowin’ in Brooklyn

Ferron: Snowin‘ in Brooklyn


Ferron’s songs are often about relationships, and the stories they tell can apply to different aspects of the same situation. Snowin’ in Brooklyn is a breakup song in which the narrator is advising acceptance of the situation. “If it’s snowin’ in Brooklyn, I’d say snow’s what we’ve got.” It could be that the narrator is helping a friend through the aftermath of the breakup through an exchange of letters. But it would be equally valid to assume that the narrator is one half of the couple that broke up, and her advising acceptance is for her own benefit as well as her correspondent‘s. And the lyrics make no assumption about the genders of the two characters.

The question of gender comes up because Ferron is a lesbian. In my younger days, I fell in with a crowd that included members of New Brunswick, NJ’s gay and lesbian community, and a group of us attended a Ferron concert. I got lost in the music, and the intensity of Ferron’s lyrics, and did not realize until later that some of the lesbians in the audience picked up on the (apparently) very straight vibes I was giving off, and they greeted this with hostility. But I remember that Ferron specifically urged the straight members of the audience to sing along. She was obviously gay but not narrow, and I’m sure the lack of gender specificity in her lyrics was deliberate.

Gay and lesbian musicians have two career paths available to them. The lucky ones, like Melissa Ethridge, can achieve popularity with a mainstream audience before coming out publicly, and can then retain most or all of their audience. But there are probably many more who tread the same path as Ferron. She released her first two albums herself, and when a label came calling, it was one that specialized in lesbian music. Thus, she became labeled, and once that happens, it becomes very difficult to reach a wider audience. I hope this post helps in some small way.

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