In my last post I mentioned my dude L.Dula‘s latest mix “The Need To Calm” (highly recommended, as I’ve already gushed… you should still be able to cop it over at my nephew Thermoshead’s favorite guilty pleasure, soulstrut.com)… one of the tunes on that disc that was really melting my mind was this joint called “Sister Bessie” by a group called AIR (not to be confused with the French duo that came out in the 90’s with stuff like “All I Need” and the Virgin Suicides OST… I dig that stuff too, but this ain’t that).
Air was actually Herbie Mann‘s backing band back in the late 60’s / early 70’s. So when Herbie launched Embryo Records in 1970, it wasn’t long before he gave his band a shot at their fifteen minutes of fame. I don’t know if they ever got any of that fifteen minutes, because lead singer Googie Coppola left the group to become a born again christian not much longer after their self titled debut album was released (I really love me some Googie, btw). But fame, schmame… they left behind a solid album for us crate diggin’ mofos to slobber over even now, 37 some odd years after the fact. And that, my friends, is all that matters… the group’s personal success is really neither here nor there.
Funny thing about this album for me is that I’d never really peeped it, even though I’ve known about it for at least a decade and a half and have had the mp3s gathering dust in my hard drive for years as well. Just one of those joints that I never got around to checking out thoroughly (I still have a ton of those in my mp3 collection). As for the “Sister Bessie” track, it just kinda haunted me from the first time I really listened to it. What in the hell is Googie singing about here? Something about a child, or is Bessie a lover maybe (lesbian themes in 1971)?
“Sister Bessie, don’t you say no prayer for me
a slow boat’s gonna lead me where I’m bound
I’m for to travel far across the distant seas
My destiny will lead me where I’m bound
just a child, and with a sweet child’s tender heart
waiting for someone to call you mine
how do you keep your faith, when you are always falling, yes, I’m falling
how do you find a way to keep from crying
Bessie don’t you weep, Bessie don’t you moan
you stole my heart in oh so many ways
but the woman who stole my soul has taken all I have
and left me here alone and in a daze
Bessie don’t you weep no more”
Well, I finally found the deal, as explained by the song’s writer Moogy Klingman: “Someone told me a true story about a nun, who took LSD after falling in love with a hippie, and then made love to him, deciding she would leave the church and the convent. Apparently, the hippie had different ideas and left town quickly. This song is about what he might say to her about his hasty exit, if he said anything at all.” Okay… safe to say I wouldn’t have ever guessed that one. NEXT LEVEL.
You can check out the “Sister Bessie” joint and / or you can DL the whole album, which is pretty great from start to finish. I think most people who ride for this album actually big up the “Mr. Man” track more than they do the Bessie song… me, I’m partial to Bessie, but that’s just me. I’m not like most people.