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Both Sides of Desire with Rickie Lee

July 26, 2015

“Yes my heart was opened
No, no I don’t look back
Because I’m riding around heaven
In Elvis Cadillac
Riding around in heaven
In Elvis Cadillac”

– Rickie Lee Jones, from Elvis Cadillac

When I learned that Rickie Lee Jones was on her way to San Francisco, I immediately knew I wanted to be there.

RLJ has lived a life that many of us can hardly imagine. She was awarded a Grammy very early in her music career and now finances her records with the financial support from her fans. She’s friends with Bruce Springsteen and was once adored by every record executive, but also tells the story about being at an event attended by the industry’s top dogs and celebrities when Pete Townshend was the only one who showed her any kindness. She’s played on stage for crowds of 80,000 people. Friday, she was booked at a small ballroom in a gritty section of San Francisco. She’s been up. She’s been down. She’s been rich. She’s been poor.


Rickie Lee Jones at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, 7/24/15.

Many of us first learned about RLJ from FM radio in the late seventies, when it was hip to be cool and she was the coolest. She was a pop culture sensation after her performance on Saturday Night Live in April 1979. Her single, Chuck E’s in Love, was at the top of the charts. For me, while she’s never been any bigger than those days long ago, her music’s always been superb. I’m not alone. Indeed, her music is still critically acclaimed.

Rickie Lee tells stories with her music. She brings descriptions any of us can understand, no matter how close we’ve been to fortune or fame. No matter how far down we’ve fallen or how steep our climb has been. Her voice fills our hearts with elements of love, hope and dreams. Heartbreak, loss and despair are never far behind. This is something we grasp. We know the people in her lyrics. We recognize ourselves.

Much of the interest in Rickie Lee’s music today comes from those of us who remember and have stuck with her since we were young. While the crowds are smaller, the respect for her and her music are as high as it ever was. Maybe more.

Nobody came out for a jukebox show Friday night. We wanted to hear what Rickie Lee wanted to play. She mostly played music from her new album. Infinity and Christmas in New Orleans quickly jumped to my list of favorites. So much that I violated my own hard and fast rule about not playing music after a concert. I listened to the new songs for the entire drive back from the City and was better off for it.

Rickie Lee expresses deep gratitude that anybody still cares. She made that clear on Friday night. An adoring crowd was there to welcome her back to San Francisco. We were there for the music, but I think just as much, we came out for her.

I've been listening to these CDs non-stop for three days.

I’ve been listening to these CDs non-stop for the past three days. Her new album, The Other Side of Desire, is very good.

Rickie Lee says that she wants to spend the “rest of her life lifting people up and fighting the darkness that gnaws at people.” Friday night, we were there to lift her up as well and to let her know that we still remember love.

I know it takes is love, love is a healing thing
When you give everything you love in the world
The world gives you love to hold onto
Remembering, we seldom remember love

Somewhere, we’ll be over there
We’ll be better there
Just give me many chances
I’ll see you through it all
Just give me time to learn to crawl

– Stewart’s Coat

Rickie Lee will be on the road the next four weeks. She’s accompanied by a set of wonderful musicians from Montreal. Three people I spoke with after the show told me they were near tears or crying watching and listening to the beautiful person on stage that evening. If you like emotional tremors with your art or are just in the mood for an evening of good music, check it out if she travels to a town near you. Rickie Lee will be happy to see you. It goes both ways. You too will feel lifted.

From → Music, SF Bay Area

  1. What a sweet tribute to an interesting artist. I don’t know why, but Ricki Lee’s career and the road she’s traveled reminds me some of Lucinda William’s … although their music is very different. To see a great concert in a tiny venue is a gift!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoy both of their music. I suppose the similarity comes with some of the topics, if nothing else. While I have listened to Lucinda’s records quite a bit, I don’t know much about her history in the business.


  2. How great that you got to see her. I imagine you’re just the kind of fan she loves having in her audience.


  3. (❀‿❀)✌

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful post, Bruce. You are a devoted fan!


  5. Oh, the power of music beautifully played, made even moreso when the artist behind it is as special as Ricki Lee seems to be! A wonderful post, Bruce. Thanks so much for sharing.


  6. I will be listening to her today. Thanks for another good post. Mathew


    • Hello Mat. Glad you liked it. It’s fun to know artists we grew up with are still vital and vibrant. RLJ is as good as ever.


  7. Reblogged this on Tombers’s Blog and commented:
    A great tribute to a great artist…


  8. This is a wonderful article, Bruce. I’m glad you enjoyed yourself at the show. I related to your introduction as the first publishing party I attended was the similar experience of dismissal and rudeness. I hope to make the best of it as Rickie Lee did 🙂


  9. Thanks for your teaching me about musicians, Bruce. I’ll look for her because she’s “lifting people up and fighting the darkness that gnaws at people.”


  10. Bruce, this is such a great tribute to incredible musician & person. I too, grew up, loving her music. You have inspired me to take a look at where her travels are taking her, in hopes she may end up in a venue close by!


  11. Nice post….
    Brucees in Love


    • Ha!

      There is something I gotta see
      Is she here?
      In the pool hall
      Is she here?
      In the drugstore?
      Is she here?
      No, Rickie don’t come here no more


      Rickie left town after the show Friday night. Down to LA. Just a memory now. It will be a long summer.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m listening to her music while commenting. If not for you, I wouldn’t have returned to her music and appreciated it as much as I do now. I just remember her “Chuck E’s in Love” song because when it was big on the charts, my brother Chuck was engaged (to the wrong woman) and I sang it to him with a bit of disdain (he’s now been married to the right woman for almost 30 years). 🙂
    Lastly, I think I may use the lyrics from Stewart’s Coat for the beginning of my next book. Because like Rickie Lee, that’s what I want to do with my writing – lift people up and out of the darkness. Love IS the healing answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chuck is a lucky man.

      RLJ is there for everyone to enjoy. These days, it’s not likely (impossible) that she will be invited to play on SNL or whatever the kids are watching these days. So, she plays for those who remember. Too bad, because others would enjoy also if they took a listen. I think.

      Stewart’s Coat is elementary. Isn’t it? That’s part of the beauty of that lovely song.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. As I listened to the music, I remembered her voice and her songs. Thank you for sharing.
    I just have to ask about your hard and fast rule about not listening to music on the way home: because you are trying to stay in the moment, remember the music, or ?????


    • Hi Laurie – the answer to your question is “yes.” I concluded that a good show can get jumbled up if I go back to the music too soon. Last Friday, I took the chance and won. So big that I haven’t stopped listening. I’ve played her music every day all week long and haven’t listened to anything else. Call it a spell.


  14. That would have been a great concert to attend. I’m humming “Chuck E’s in Love” right now, thanks to this post!

    I love it when those old masters (and mistresses) return. I remember seeing the Eagles in concert for their Hell Freezes Over tour. It was a blast.


  15. Bruce…I owe you a Campy Campaneris autographed 1969 Topps.

    Please e mail me so I can send that to you….would look great on your desk. Conversation piece for your fellow Giants fans. 🙂


  16. Thanks. She’s a very fine artist who has shown tenacity and courage as well as tremendous songwriting and performing talent.


  17. I really enjoyed reading this post.It’s been a long time that I listened to her and she used to be one of my favorites. Thanks for taking her out of the woodwork for me.
    I love that “she wants to spend the “rest of her life lifting people up and fighting the darkness that gnaws at people.” 🙂


    • Hello Carol,

      Just think of all the wonderful RLJ rediscoveries ahead of you. Her music is full of special. It seems that a lot of people stopped listening over the years. With no publicist, her stock fell in the music industry.


  18. Bruce Samet permalink

    On 8/15/15 Rickie Lee and her band came through Rocky Mount VA, a tiny-nothing place (pop. ca. 4,500) with, somehow, an extraordinary performance venue — no assigned seats, no bad seats, outstanding sound — evidently expecting not many people to be there, and they got a pleasant surprise. Odd to see a graying audience (me included) so full of love (“I feel it’s like the same audience everywhere,” she said, “people shoutin’ at me . . .”) Early on, she remarked “I can’t stop smiling!” and she didn’t. She did a wonderful hour and a half, left people standing and applauding and applauding for her to reappear (she didn’t), everybody wanting more but . . . hey! how could you complain!

    Rickie Lee is one of my very few remaining personal Celebrities. I go back with her all the way to Pirates (’81, wasn’t it?), and some of her music is just part of my consciousness, always there to retrieve and play in my head. It took three and a half decades for me to get a chance to see and hear her in person, and old and jaded as I am, I confess I teared up when she came out. Where will today’s glitzies be after 35 years? Even the biggest “stars,” like Madonna and Lady Gaga, are going to be nostalgia acts, if they’re still around at all. But Rickie Lee is an honest-to-God artist, who’s taken big chances and been up and down and up; and at 60, she sounds and looks terrific, and her new music is as powerful and moving as ever. When I received the new CD, I had to play “Jimmy Choo” five or six times before I could get on to the next track. Now, THAT’S musical joy worth keeping.


    • Hello Bruce, thanks for stopping by. It sounds like a repeat from SF. Folks out here adored her and listened respectfully. People were visibly moved to have her there. In turn, she was happy to be with us and enjoyed the moment. I suspect she was greeted the same way all around the country. She’s off to Europe soon, I believe.


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