Today’s Gemini Roll Call celebrates a voice that had a really splendid time blurring the lines between the secular and the spiritual. Marie Knight, like a number of singers of her generation, practiced her craft in the confines of Gospel in the 1930s and 1940s. Eventually she was spotted by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and became a featured vocalist in her touring. However the call of the secular was never far away for Marie given two of her Gospel recordings became Top Ten R&B hits as the 1940’s gave way to the 1950’s.
Around 1957 in her early 30’s, she plunged full fledged into the R&B field. As the 1950’s made their way to being the 1960’s she released a slew of singles for Okeh, Diamond and Musicor that increasingly cast her as the older sister of the Girl Group phenomenon. Knight was typically a good 20 years older than the typical girl group singer, so her interpretations often were a dozen shades more mature in lyrical content or emotional feeling. However she never sacrificed a wry sense of humor nor an all knowing bite to her gospel infused runs through the material.
It’s hard to pick a favorite of hers from this 7 year period of her career, but how can you not delight to this burbling romp? “You Lie So Well” functioned as the B-side farewell to her secular solo career in the Fall of ’65. Marie, just past 40 when she recorded it brings a bemused resignation that I (at least) completely acknowledge within my own life. The ability to laugh at oneself and the bullshit we put up with in the game of love? Here’s the song to shake it off to.
On what would have been her 90th birthday, we give a knowing wink to the Queen of Soulful Duality. Thank you for your work Marie Knight.