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Celebrating 3 fierce ladies of R&B

Amanda Parris
Listen to Marvin's Room, Oct 27th 2017

Marvin's Room with Amanda Parris on CBC Radio


From shimmering sequin gowns towind machine-tossed hair, R&B is dominated by a glamorous illusion of perfection when it comes to women singers. The flawlessness of their make-up is matched only by the smooth precision of their voices.

Today, however, we are basking in a different kind of artist. These are women who were not afraid to sweat out their make-up and mess up their hair when caught in a moment of passion onstage. Here are three women of R&B who were so fierce, they didn't just sing — they growled.

Tina Turner

We begin with the queen of rock 'n' roll. Tina Turner's iconic voice can be at once husky and smooth, raspy and thick, creating a sound so versatile she can command a stage singing a wide array of genres from rock and pop to soul and blues. Her fearless live performances made headlines in the '60's for their rawness, and packed stadiums in the '90's because of their power. Over her 50 plus-year career, Turner has channelled an ache and grit that cannot be taught.

Betty Davis

Betty Davis was so fierce, the NAACP demanded Black radio stations boycott her songs. She never became a mainstream star, but Davis was definitely a cult hero of the funk music scene. Her musical output was raw and heavy funk filled with sexually explicit lyrics, and an unapologetically feminist stance that she constantly amplified with roars, growls and rasps. Maybe it was too shocking, too ahead of its time — but Davis's music never crossed into the mainstream. This week we’re going to give her some of the airplay she always deserved.

Saidah Baba Talibah, a.k.a. SATE

She’s now retired from the world of R&B and is a full-time rock star who goes by the name of SATE but, in her soulful past, Toronto singer Saidah Baba Talibah was already exhibiting the fierce and bluesy grit that would come to define her live performances. She regularly pushes her voice to gravelly extremes, emitting low grumbles and groans before demonstrating her incredible range and proudly continuing the legacy set by Betty Davis and Tina Turner.

Marvin's Room Playlist for Oct. 27, 2017:

  1. Ralph Tresvant, "Sensitivity"
  2. Tevin Campbell, "I’m Ready"
  3. Ike & Tina Turner, "River Deep, Mountain High"
  4. Betty Davis, "They Say I’m Different"
  5. Saidah Baba Talibah, "So Cool"
  6. Solange, "Don’t Wish Me Well"
  7. Keyon Harrold feat. Bilal and Big K.R.I.T., "Stay This Way"
  8. Allan Rayman, "Left Alone"
  9. River Tiber, "Barcelona"
  10. Frank Ocean, "Provider"
  11. Majid Jordan feat. dvsn, "My Imagination"
  12. Witch Prophet, "Reprogram"