For more than fifteen years, Chan Marshall has been the earthy impassioned face of Cat Power. Here are ten facts that have coloured her tumultuous life, in and out of music.
1. Her mother, father and stepfather imparted varied and valuable music education on her from a young age. “My mom loved Ziggy [Stardust],” she explained, “and was called always called Ziggy. My dad was into more gospel and my step-dad was more into psychedelic stuff. So we were always going to parties and seeing bands… Charlie Daniels and the Allman Brothers; it was all very Atlanta.”
2. At one stage Cat Power thought that Spooner Oldham, renowned songwriter and session musician, could be her father. “My mom went with my dad, they had my sister and me. Then my dad left,” she revealed. “His wife said: ‘Man, you really remind me of my husband’, so I started putting two and two together. I asked him; he doesn’t remember, but I don’t think it’s true.”
3. The inspiration behind the name Cat Power has nothing to do with the feline species. “Back when we got our first gig we didn’t have a name yet,” she told an interviewer, “and I was on a payphone trying to come up with a name and I saw someone wearing a Cat Diesel Power hat. I decided the name of our band would be Cat Power.”
4. The cover art for ‘Dear Sir’ is a note authored by an old unhinged man staying in her friend’s apartment block. One day, she saw him being taken away by the proverbial white coat. He was sad and reached into his pocket and gave her the notes: three rectangular pieces of paper taped together that were very dated.
5. The line “Jackson, Jesse, I’ve got a baby in me” in ‘Nude As The News’ has been mistakenly thought to be a figurative expression about Kim Gordon’s sons who have the same names. In fact it is very literal. The song is about an abortion that Marshall had when she was twenty-years-old.
6. For years after ‘You Are Free’ was released, there was speculation that ‘I Don’t Blame You’ was about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Previously stating that she would never divulge the specific meaning of the song, she later told the Guardian in 2006: “I’ve never told anybody this but that is about Kurt Cobain. It’s about him blowing his head off.”
7. Marshall had been known for her shaky-at-best live performances, with her 1999 show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York being the case in point. Stepping off the stage and settling down on the floor, she made it through her song ‘Cross Bones Style’ with her nose pressed to the ground, while fans patted her on the back to comfort her…for the most part they were watching a train wreck.
8. The immediate factors that spurred her 2006 psychotic breakdown were: a two-day cocaine and alcohol binge, disproportionate amounts of stress upon hearing of Hamas’ Palestinian election victory, and ultimately suicidal thoughts; all while she promoted ‘The Greatest’. During one interview she excused herself: “What [the reporter] didn’t know is that I was going to take all those pills. I was just like, ‘Yep I’m going to do it, I’m gone.”
9. While recording ‘Jukebox’, she received an e-mail confirming that she would be meeting her hero Bob Dylan (who she refers to as God Dylan) in a week. Then and there, ‘A Song For Bobby’ was born. “I closed my computer and I said, “I’m meeting Bob in a fuckin’ week.” And that's when I said to Stuart Sikes (sound engineer), “Give me that mic, can you start rolling?”
10. Perhaps a surprise to some, she is a great fan of hip-hop soul singer Mary J. Blige whose 2006 release ‘The Breakthrough’ is “Desert Island Disc important” to the singer. After meeting her at Later…With Jools Holland, she was so overwhelmed that she started bawling.
Words: Michelle Kambasha