Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Tenure in Millie's House

While interviewing for a sublet space in this 19th century Brooklyn home, having just learned that I'm an avid soul music fan and collector, Elizabeth mentioned that "Millie (not Mahalia) Jackson" used to live here. At that point Elizabeth could have led me to a cage in the basement and said, "and this will be your room," and I would have probably still taken it. For a just thirty-something white soul-music fanatic from Portland, OR this is about as close as one can get to touching soul music history. Shit, Millie used to have an unregistered lounge with stage, bar and wood panneling in the basement. And she parked her big-ass limo in the backyard that she paved over.

The picture to your right is this same house back in the 1930s when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) hired bunches of photographers to document just about every damn thing in the five boroughs on New York City. This is the picture of Millie's house before she lived in it. That open window on the second floor is where my kitchen is and my room is directly is in the back of the house on the same floor.

The picture to your left here is the house today. The funny thing is that the neighborhood is probably not as nice now as it was in the 1930s and boy was it in rough shape in the years in between. This house is more or less on the front-lines of Brooklyn gentrification. Sitting on the official dividing line between recently gentrified Clinton Hill and rapidly gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant aka "Bed-Stuy." The recent feature article about Mandrill in Wax Poetics talked about the band's roots in this neighborhood back in the sixties and anyone who's listened to the radio in the past decade knows that Biggie repped Bed-Stuy all-the-way. Imagine the affront to have this whitebread record collector participating in the occupation of Millie's old digs! It even used to be a crack house between Millie and my residencies.

But like Millie, my term here is coming to an end. I'm moving in with the gf and moving (back) to Williamsburg. The best I can bet for is to live in the converted loft where that dude from TV on the Radio used to live "before they were big." No offense, but it doesn't have the same cache.

Let me leave you with this great song of Millie's from her 1974 "Still Caught Up" album. This was my first favorite Millie song and still probably my favorite. The way Millie could build an emotional story to each 3 1/2 minute song is astounding. In this song, the spoken word intro with the spacey keyboards and funky clavinet give her a suitable platform for her possesive and possessed demand to her husband to quit the "other" lady.

This concludes my first entry into Soul Spectrum. This is the kind of stuff you can expect from this blog in the coming weeks and months: soulful songs (and occasionally albums) & related social, political or personal mutterings. The next post will be up early next week, if not sooner. - the ambassador


FT said...

Good Shit son...
I'd like to make a shoutout to little turbo, Snuff and Brute Wayne..BedSTUY!!!

Girb Nedlog said...

i LOVE the millie jackson's house story--but you should have posted THIS album cover!:


lynn and i found it in the old flea market on 6th ave--and bought it on the spot.

djprestige45 said...

nice one allen. i've linked you up to flea market funk. i'm digging on this already, and it looks like it will be another daily read. good luck and thanks for the apollo photos. cheers-

jim said...

Yeah, I agree, "Good shit, son!" There's gonna be some puzzled bears watching me cut a jig to Christy Essien in the middle of the effing woods...