The great singer-songwriter Jane Siberry is 59 years old today. She is an amazing talent, but I have to admit that she has largely grown beyond me. At this point, I mostly listen to her first two albums. I admire her more recent work, but it is much more challenging. Most of the time, if I’m listening to popular music, I’m not really in the mood for being challenged.
I’ve seen her live a number of times. She is one of the very few musicians who I actually enjoyed live. In general, I don’t like live shows. But her shows in the early 1980s with her whole band were something really special. What’s more, they were actual shows and not just a bunch of her songs performed one after the other. She also made notable changes to songs done live so that it was actually worth going to the show and not just staying home with the album.
She never did become much of a star in the United States, but in Canada, she’s huge. I remember being at a conference my first year in graduate school and I shared a room with a Canadian scientist. I told him I was a fan of Siberry and Bruce Cockburn. He was shocked that I knew Cockburn and took it for granted that everyone knew Siberry, even though in the US, their reputations were exactly the opposite.
(Siberry used to have all of her albums online for free download. She seems to have stopped doing this. Let me state for the record that it was very nice of her to do that and it is her right to stop doing it at any point. But those links should not be broken! They should go to a page that explains what happened. It continues to bug me that the web is a publishing platform but people feel they have no obligation to maintain even the most basic standards of professionalism. Once a site is designed, that’s it. It’s like owning a house and thinking it never requires paint or other maintenance. Of course, I’m talking about professional websites — Siberry is selling her albums and shows and art on her website. I am not talking about, for example, me.)
I can’t find any of Jane Siberry’s first album online. So let’s just skip to her second album, No Borders Here. I wasn’t all that fond of the song “Mimi on the Beach” when I was younger. I thought it rather preachy. It’s grown a lot on me over the years. It’s basically a revenge fantasy. The title character is a selfish and superficial girl — the alpha in her group of beautiful jocks. She takes pleasure in abusing and using those in the out group. So the singer tracks down Mimi to gloat about her inevitable downfall. The song is almost eight minutes long. It was cut down to a three minute single that makes no sense whatsoever. So here’s the album track:
Here is the last (best) track off her third album The Speckless Sky, “The Taxi Ride.” I think it is self-explanatory:
And finally, from her album Dragon Dreams (when she was calling herself Issa for some reason), is “I Pick Up the Phone”:
Happy birthday Jane Siberry!