Joan Osborne at The Egg Thursday, September 9, Says She’s Just “One of Us”
Joan Osborne will sing her career defining song “One of Us” Thursday night at The Egg along with 11 other songs from her 1995 album Relish. She’s recorded 11 albums since Relish, but that CD is by far her most successful having gone tripled platinum in The United States alone. “One of Us” earned her five Grammy nominations, a Rolling Stone cover, and enough visibility to allow her to follow her muse while hanging with The Grateful Dead, The Dixie Chicks, Dylan and Taj Mahal.
Twenty-seven years ago, the success of “One of Us” initially destroyed her private life to the point where people would follow her down the street and get out of their cars to come over and talk to her. Mercury Records, her label at the time, dropped her when she failed to come up with a follow-up record in the same vein fast enough for them to merchandise her success. “I had the worst case of a sophomore slump as anyone could have as far as taking a long time to deliver a follow-up that they wanted to release,” she told me in 2008. “I brought them things they didn’t like, and it was a very long and frustrating period.”
Seven years later, she had come to grips with the fact that her big hit had become the ticket to ride for the rest of her career. “So at least “One Of Us” is not a song that’s like a disco booty song or something. At least it’s got some level of depth to it. It is something that you can go back to again and again and not get tired of doing.”
The song for her was a musical anomaly that asks the question about what God would be like if he were just “a slob” like the rest of us. My personal favorite off Relish is her rendition of blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me,” an intensely erotic song that takes on a whole new meaning when sung by a woman, particularly this woman. “It is often fun to take something that is known by a male singer and – for whatever reason, gender still does have a lot of weight to it for us – and to turn its head by singing it from a female perspective is fun,” said Osborne in 2008. “I went to see Etta James recently, and she was talking about one of her mentors, Johnny Otis, and how she would sing his songs and try to have that gruff manly voice. But you could still tell it was a woman singing it.” Another anomaly Boy Williamson song “Bring It on Home to Me” was thetitle cut of Joan’s 2012 album.
Joan has long and very personal connections with this area. She first played The Metro in Saratoga in 1993, and I put “Help Me” into heavy rotation on my WSPN-FM radio show, interviewing her to promote that early gig. She later performed for Taking It to The Streets in Schenectady’s Central Park where she met the late Rev. Bethenia Rouse of the Christian Faith Church.
Joan came to Schenectady and recorded an album of sacred music with Rev. Rouse that included some assistance from blues/gospel veterans The Holmes Brothers. It was the Holmes Brothers who gave Joan her initiation into the blues world by featuring her in their shows in a New York City nightclub. Both the Holmes Brothers and Joan continued to play the Palace and The Egg on numerous occasions.
In 2015 she reflected on the impact “One of Us” has had on her career. “You know, it’s funny. I think it’s one of those things that you can really spend a lot of time chasing, and then once you get it, you realize it’s not what you thought it was gonna be. I mean, I do remember what that felt like, and there were a lot of wonderful things about that, and very validating and very meaningful to have been a part of something that has that kind of import, and that meant something to people.
“At the same time, to live that day to day of being in that sort of hot focus was for me personally pretty uncomfortable. So, I think there’s a definitely a part of me that likes to be a little bit more of the sideman or the craftsman or whatever it is when you’re just doing your job, and you’re living your life in music, and you’re doing it day to day, and it’s your practice. So, I think there’s part of me that likes that. I wouldn’t lie and say I would never want to have another hit. That’s ridiculous. There is real gratification in that, but I think that also I understand maybe a little bit better what I would be getting myself into this time around if it were to happen again.
Other songs from Relish include Dylan’s “Man in the Long Black Coat” and originals “St. Teresa,” “Right Hand Man,” “Spider Web,” “Let’s Just Get Naked,” and “Crazy Baby.”
Also on the bill is Madeleine Peyroux who plays her 2004 multiplatinum release, Careless Love, with her jazz inflected interpretations of music by Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and Elliot Smith.
Show time is 7 p.m. Tickets are priced from $39.50 50 $59.50 and are available at The Egg Box Office at the Empire State Plaza, by telephone at 518-473-1845 or on line at www.theegg.org
To ensure the safety of audience, artists and staff, The Egg is asking everyone attending the performance must wear a face covering and either show proof of current vaccination or a negative test result for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the concert date.