“The Kiss” Judee Sill
Judee Sill was one of music’s sadder stories. She grew up in Oakland and spent much of her early childhood in her father’s bar, which happened to have a piano that she taught herself to play. Her father died when she was 7 and her mother passed when she was 16. After that, Judee bounced around a few high schools, developed a drug habit and was arrested for robbing a liquor store. Following a spell in reform school she somehow found a job as a church organist and went back to school. Soon, though, she was working long hours in a piano bar, back into drugs, and married to a junkie. Another larceny bust led to jail time. Getting out, she vowed to reform and get her songwriting act together. Amazingly, she did precisely that, writing echt-late sixties singer-songwriter material that was infused with Bach and Schubert, Christian imagery, and psychedelia. She was the first act signed to David Geffen’s new Asylum label. Her eponymous debut album and the follow-up Heart Food received critical acclaim but did not sell well. She never finished a third record, and died of a drug overdose in 1979. Some of her stuff sounds dated now, the production a bit hokey, but this BBC footage from the Heart Food tour shows her plainness plainly: an intelligent but shy and wary soul, desperately seeking salvation and singing her heart out.