What a better way to start chronicling women in jazz on this blog than to draw attention to a woman who sings a notoriously sexist song.
Cécile McLorin Salvant no doubt has a beautiful voice, and is a very respectable member of the jazz community. However, to record this song seems self deprecating and counterintuitive. Origionally written in 1963 by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the lyrics warn wives that they must remain beautiful for their husbands or else they will run off with someone younger because “you know how men are”
I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is to hear the phrase “boys will be boys” as a validation for men doing terrible things to women. The fact is that their actions are not a result of biology, but what we tell them is “natural” for them to do though media, entertainment, and even education. It’s so integrated into our society to see women as dispensable objects to the point where a successful female musician has no qualms about recording a song that was written to “put her in her place.”
There is no doubt Salvant is a figure for everyone to look up to, beyond just women and girls. She won first prize in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010 and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2014. I hope she had some deeper intention for recording Wives and Lovers beyond just the fact that it does have a beautiful melody and harmony, if not lyrics.
If you happen to think I am just a crazy feminist going off on a rant, here are some articles that agree with me