Friday, June 19, 2009

Gender Benders: The Ballad of Mary Magdalen

Richard Shindell: The Ballad of Mary Magdalen


American expat singer-songwriter and ex-seminarian Richard Shindell is known for his ability to give poignant and poetic first-person voice to a wide variety of otherwise-unheard members of society and history -- the immigrant, the cab driver, the civil war widow. He is willing to take on female voices more than most, in fact; off the top of our heads, fellow SMM contributor Susan and I were able to come up with no less than four female-voiced gender benders in the Shindell canon, from the aforementioned war widow to the grandmother-voiced Abuelita to Money For Floods, a gorgeous lamentation from the perspective of a woman who thought she was living okay on the edge until she lost it all to tragedy.

Of the four, I like this one best -- it's straightforward, philosophical, and eminently feminist without losing its perfectly melancholy core, and the live version beats the early original by a hair. But the others are all amazing in their own powerful way.

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