Sonny Sharrock – “Black Woman” (1969)

Sonny Sharrock - "Black Woman" (1969)

For the longest time, one of the most embarrassing blind spots in music knowledge was jazz. I guess in hindsight I can see why this would be. I was a maniacal, suburban weirdo kid that listened to Spineshank and jumped off of balconies into bushes for fun. I was not exactly one for nuance in my youth. I eventually came around to the genre as a whole, but only in the last four years or so. That’s mostly due to what I tend to seek out in music. While I love countless records that are smooth as silk, nine times out of ten I’m going to opt for the cacophony. I want the bombast. I want the untethered energy. I want… well, Sonny Sharrock.

I may not have been a jazz fan for much of my life, but I always made an exception for Sharrock. His guitar playing was so fucking wild. Just a whirlwind of passion and noise. It has always been a thing to behold. I found out about Sharrock as a kid in the most suburban dork way possible: Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.

That show, perhaps more than anything else in my life, explains why I am the way I am. It came on late at night, way past when I was supposed to be asleep, and it was such a strange forbidden world. Repurposed Hanna-Barbera characters that have been half-forgotten to time chopping it up with people like Jonathan Richman, Judy Tenuta, and Pavement was something I could not properly process as a child, and still seems insane decades later.

Then, of course, there was the show’s theme song.

A flurry of screeching guitars and vocal wails provided by Sonny Sharrock. It remains hypnotic in its madness, and I was hooked immediately. As I got older, I began to track down more of Sharrock’s work, and was enamored with it all. Ask the Ages, Guitar, his work with Last Exit, and the topic of today’s post, the title track from his seminal 1970 album Black Woman.

God, this song is immaculate. Just this beautiful rising swell of emotive howls, plosive cymbal crashes, jingling bells, and Sharrock’s feverish guitar. I love how the song is bursting with this clamoring energy, yet serene at the same time. It’s like resting in the eye of a hurricane moments before you’re subsumed by the storm’s encroaching wall. Truly one of the best songs of the 70’s.

For more short discussions on music, check out our post on the song “XYZ” by pro wrestler Atsushi Onita.

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