Live and Outrageous

Sometimes the heckler is right. Many moons ago, a young Millie Jackson wrecked some poor tuneless hackette's act at the famed Harlem nightclub Small's Paradise. The would-be diva dared Jackson to come onstage. Oops! After dusting off the object of her ridicule with her gorgeous, soaring alto, Jackson embarked on a monster career that has spanned more than 30 years, 26 albums, and a slew of top 20 R&B singles.

While some of her best-selling singles are straight-ahead love songs like "My Man, a Sweet Man," Jackson's strongest weapon is an ability to mix her sweet singing voice with half-sung, half-rapped, brutal sexual politics. Cheating husbands and the suckers who put up with them are equally subject to scorn in songs like "Leftovers": "Tell me something/You been married to her and shackin' with me/So who do you feel you're cheating on?" The jackass doesn't think he did anything wrong. His wife shows up to claim him and Jackson drops one on her: "How can you lay there stretched out in my bed?/With my brand-new nightie on/And my brand-new rollers in your nappy head?" Jackson kicks all their asses out and the people cheer.

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Tom Bowker