Yes Yes Yes Sunday Jammers. Hope you’re well. Hope you’re managing to stay upright and brief spells of sunshine have found you and help you steady. So, this is the last tune on the Popular Music mini tour and this week’s track is dedicated to my beautiful, kind and hella funny Stepmother. For some of you who have read my longer form pieces will know how much I love music that has been passed down – especially in families. I count myself so lucky because I am immersed in a family with exceptional and diverse musical sensibilities, all of whom will happily cut up a rug at a moment’s notice and sing out loud to a tune if it takes them. Legends.
This week’s tune is a stone-cold classic banger an example of a female soul vocal at its very finest, a total pop masterpiece. The track is Mr Big Stuff by the gorgeous Jean Knight and it has attitude for days. This is one of those pieces of music that we all know so well that we sing along to the vocal without thinking, throw out some steps without having to warm up – automatic wiling. The thing that sometimes gets lost is the attitude. This is a big rousing, sexy diss tune – see also the legendary Carly Simon with You’re So Vain – and it doesn’t pull any punches. It calls out, confronts and crushes ‘Mr Big Stuff’, which always leaves me wondering who was the subject of this scathing soul attack? A mystery for another time. Another thing about this track is that it has been sampled far and wide by music greats from all genres and sensibilities. From Hip Hop and Rap artists such as Heavy D, Queen Latifah and The Beastie Boys to pop Rudegirls TLC and many, many a film has featured it in soundtracks so, again, it’s a banger.
When you put it on, know that it demands that you dance, shoulder shimmy, tap your feet or whatever - just make sure you move move, move. Knight’s vocal is deep and rich, without having to overreach or drown you in vocal runs; expertly handled. Add in sweet, smooth chocolaty harmonies that just add to layers of the diss; searing. The other reason I love this because it’s a perfect embodiment of my Stepmother, gorgeous, honest and direct as hell. She will ask you the uncomfortable question and maintain eye contact until you’ve answered honestly. Every time Jean Knight sings ‘Mr Big Stuff, who do you think you are, Mr Big Stuff, you’re never get my love….’ I think of her firm and fixed stare that could bore into your soul but is always followed by her warm, easy smile and raucous laugh. Mix that in with a full brass soul band, a deep bass drum led rift and it’s a double whammy of a soul vibe. A perfect jam for your Sunday. I know I say this often but if you have someone you can wile out with then turn it up extra loud and get on down. Loves.