Timothea Goes Home
From our friend Nancy with the mighty KPFT in Houston, my wife and I learned yesterday of the passing of New Orleans blues chanteuse Timothea Beckerman after a long battle with Hepatitis C. Pre-Kartina, the diminutive singer organized a number of annual multi-artist music benefits in her hometown which raised funds to promote awareness of the disease; and I was fortunate to have attended several. I first became aware of Timothea through her appearance on Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington’s Wolf Tracks CD back in 1986. She did a duo with him on a song they wrote, “It Was Fun While It Lasted”, one of five songs on the album they co-wrote. In funky tribute to her, I went to the racks and pulled out one of my favorite tracks from one of her own CDs to feature today.
"If You Think About It" (Timothea Berkerman)
Timothea, from Goin' Home To Mama, Blue Soul, 1995
Producing Goin’ Home to Mama herself on the label she started, Timothea enlisted the Wolfman to help with the arrangements and play guitar on all the tracks. “If You Think About It” quickly establishes an irresistible stutter-stepping groove courtesy of one of New Orleans’ best drummers, Wilbert ‘Junkyard Dog’ Arnold, who was with Washington’s band, the Roadmasters, at the time. The other players rounding out this track in style are Alonzo Johnson on bass, and John Autin on the B-3(thanks to John for verifying that!). Bob Andrews also played keyboards on some of the songs. With its spare instrumentation and way funky feel, the tune makes for an engaging musical ride, as Timothea sings her musings on the state of things. A gritty, scrappy singer without a lot of dynamics or range, she had the gift of picking or writing songs that didn’t force her out of her vocal comfort zone, so that her delivery felt like an easy, organic part of the song. That in itself is a true gift. We all have our limitations. It’s how you use what you’ve got that’s important.
As you can tell if you read that biographical link above, Timothea had a knack for working with some of New Orleans’ best musicians, from her first single cut as a teenager in the mid-1960s onward. I may not have warmed up to everything she did, but I like a lot of it and respect her as talented, classy, empowered artist. I am very sorry to know she’s gone and will miss her, as, I am sure, will her loved ones and homeys. Not that anybody has a say in these matters; but it’s particularly hard now for the city to lose another bright thread in its cultural fabric. So may God rest your soul, Timothea, and bless New Orleans some more, too, while He’s at it.