Tuesday, 20 August 2013

1960s singer Judsy Henske passed me by at the time - pity, because she's one the best female singers I've ever heard

Hell's bells, what a voice! Depth, power, rawness, emotion - the lot. In spades. 

Of course, "High Flying Bird" - recorded in 1963 - was later covered by Jefferson Airplane, whose lead singer, Grace Slick, seemed to have learned a lot from Judy Henske.

Here's Henske in some silly-looking 1963 film called Hootenanny Hoot, miming to her brilliant version of the gospel standard, "Wade in the Water":

Ooh, that's good. (Hootenanny Hoot includes Henske singing "Omie Wyse" in what is undoubtedly the most inappropriate and embarrassing staging of a traditional murder ballad in film or television history - see it here, and weep.)

Henske was loosely attached to the early 1960s US folk scene, and on this version of "Love Henry", she demonstrates the versatility of her voice - and blows most other female folkies of that era out of the water in the process:

Despite her obvious talent, Henske failed to make the big time in New York. In the late '60s she moved to Laurel Canyon with her husband, musician Jerry Yester (who ended up joining The Lovin' Spoonful). In 1969 they cut a classic hippy-era album, Farewell Aldebaran, which I heard for the first time earlier this year. It contains a whole series of extraordinary tracks which I can't get out of my head. I'll start with with "Snowblind":

And I'll end with "Rapture":

Despite long spells out of the music business, Judy Henske still writes and record songs. How she managed to slip through the cracks is anybody's guess - too talented and too original, I suppose. 

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