In 2006, two British soul singers made big waves across the pond. One had a dark spirit, a quirky fashion sense, and sang songs about drugs and drinking, heartache and pain. The other seemed to embody light, had a head of hair any afrobella would envy, and sang songs about romance and passion, and the simple pleasures that can be discovered in life.
Flash forward to 2009. Amy Winehouse seems determined to squander the sizable talent she possesses and money she’s earned by living out her lyrics from Back to Black.
And Corinne Bailey Rae is on the brink of a comeback, following the loss of her husband under heartbreaking circumstances. Finally she is returning to the spotlight, to share songs that are bound to be raw at the edges and filled with grief.
A brilliant, beautifully written interview in the Guardian this past weekend reveals a portrait of the beautiful young singer as she comes out of the dark.
“Corinne descended into the kind of raw, bottomless grief that Joan Didion describes so unflinchingly in her memoir. The tabloid press wrote their usual slanted and sordid takes on her tragedy; the paparazzi congregated outside her door for a while and snapped her when she went walking alone on the moors near Otley. She remained oblivious, sealed off, unreachable.
For a long time, she continued to refer to her late husband in the present tense, seemingly unable to grasp that he was gone for ever. About three months after his death, she tried to record some of the songs she had written, even turning up at a studio to meet a producer. “I laugh now at how deluded I was,” she says. “I felt like everything would somehow go back to normal if I got on with things but, in reality, I was still in shock.”
Then came the strange inertia that grief instils in those left behind, the long, terrible numbness that is, in itself, a kind of death. “I didn’t do anything for a year. I mean, nothing,” she says, still sounding as if she can barely believe it. “Everyone was asking, ‘What have you done?’ But I had nothing to show them. I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t write anything. I didn’t work. I sat at my kitchen table for a whole year, people came and people went, life drifted by. It was just bleak. Bleak.”
Did she think that she might give up music altogether? “I did think that I could never do this sort of thing again because if anyone asked me about Jason, I would just explode. For a long time, I didn’t even try and write. It was just too big a thing, too raw. It was just too destructive to make anything creative out of. All I wanted to do was destroy things. And I’m really not that type so it was all these emotions that were totally alien to me. It was just a bleak, empty, hollow nothing.””
It’s a heavy read, but an excellent one. Click here to see the accompanying video of Corinne as she discusses where she’s been and plays snippets of her new material.
I’ve been married for seven years, and even the mere thought of going through what she’s been through is enough to make my throat tighten up on the inside. I can’t even imagine. I’m rooting for Corinne all the way, and I can’t wait for her new album to come out. Out of the ashes, this bella will rise!