Nellie McKay – Music and Politics and Censorship

This post is about Nellie McKay, which means we’re going to have a strong mix of music and politics. I’ll start with the music first before getting onto the politics. Talking of which, earlier this month Nellie McKay was interviewed by Jimmy Dore. During the interview she performed her updated version of the old Country Joe anti-(Vietnam) war song. Country Joe performed this song at Woodstock and famously asked the audience to spell out the word ‘fuck’…

Nellie McKay was born in London in 1982 (a fellow Londoner!). Her father is an English writer-director and her mother is an American actress. You’ll be hard pushed to detect McKay’s UK roots because she spent just about all her childhood in America, mostly in New York City. She studied jazz voice at the Manhattan School of Music, but did not graduate. Her performances at various New York City music venues, including the Sidewalk Cafe and Joe’s Pub, drew attention from record labels and in 2002 she signed with Columbia Records. Her debut album in 2004 is called ‘Get Away from Me’ and this track from it is called It’s A Pose, performed on the Conan O’Brien show…

If you listened closely to the lyrics in the above song you might think it was risque stuff for mainstream American television. You might also get a hint that Nellie McKay is a strong feminist…

Nellie McKay has now released seven albums, and all of them are different. If you want to put her in a box it would probably be labelled ‘jazz’, although she’s also done rap, hip-hop and mainstream pop, amongst other things. This next track is from her third album, ‘Obligatory Villagers’, and is called Identity Theft

Nellie is a strong proponent of animal rights (she’s currently engaged in a campaign to ban horse-drawn tourist carriages from the streets of New York City) and is vegan. In 2006 she made a debut Broadway performance as Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, co-starring with Alan Cumming, Jim Dale, Cyndi Lauper, and Brian Charles Rooney. The role earned her a Theatre World Award for Outstanding Debut Performance. This final track is a cover of Mathilde Santing’s The Gentleman Is A Dope

Despite her talent, Nellie’s strong views about things is why she’s never made the big time. Now we get onto the more overtly political stuff, with the Jimmy Dore interview earlier this month. I find this fascinating because Nellie McKay is there to promote her new album, ‘Sister Orchid’, but straight away she gets into politics, which continues throughout the interview (forget the album she’s meant to promote). This is the first part…

The second part of this interview can be found here.

http://www.nelliemckay.com

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