Monday, July 17, 2006

Congress Woman Malinda Jackson Parker

Walking down the street in New York City a couple of months ago, I ran into Greg Caz of the legendary DJ night Brazilian Beat Brooklyn, which happens every Sunday at Black Betty in Williamsburg. A beat junkie’s beat junkie, the first thing Caz says when I tell him I’m moving to Liberia is, “You have to find that record by Congress Woman Malinda Jackson Parker. It’s one of those ‘outsider’ records that collectors are crazy about.” I had never heard of her. Then a couple of days ago, our good friend Jason emails:

"This tune I heard, it's her playing piano, this famous Rachmaninov prelude, really dramatic and spooky, you probably know it, and she keeps randomly stopping and talking about how great 'Radamaninov' was and then she starts singing this song about mosquitoes over the top, following the prelude melody like 'mosquito is not your friend', ' mosquito will suck all your blood', and like that. It's super weird."

I found this catalog listing of a 10" record housed in some collection of Liberian artifacts:

Malinda Jackson Parker, The Liberian Landmark, Joy Records LLJ-1O1-B

Needless to say, we'll not sleep until we find the LP. From the review at emusic, with clips:

“Loveable Liberian eccentric who conjures up a heavenly hash of Nina Simone and Lucia Pamela. Though not a politico by profession, the late "Ma Parker" served a term in Liberia's House of Reps in the '50s during the William V. S. Tubman administration. Musically, the dizzy yet dignified Parker mauled folk songs and addressed societal concerns with a freewheeling half-sung, half-narrated style, while pounding mercilessly on a grand piano. The album offers odes to bush cow milk and palm trees, along with not one but two diatribes against bloodsucking bugs. On "Cousin Mosquito #1," Parker utters the word "cousin" 204 times in three and a half minutes. Madame had independent wealth, was by reports kind, generous and beloved, and was never without a bag of candy to bestow upon street urchins. She dressed flamboyantly, was renowned for an overload of cosmetics and sported a turban festooned with safety pins.”



Anonymous Lou Smith said...

This recording of MJP is from an LP I found in Brooklyn. If anyone finds any further recordings by MJP I would love to hear from you. The LP I have has the 2 versions of Mosquito, Bush Cow, Palm Tree and Yes We Have No Bananas. I must hear more of the good Congress-woman! Expenses will be covered!
-Lou Smith

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4 songs by her there

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a reader:

I was in Liberia in 1968 and happened to meet this amazing lady. My friend, who was in the Peace Corps in Monrovia, took me to her house, and we had Fanta on the verandah and after much begging (her reluctance was all for show, i'm sure) she agreed to play for us. She played Mr. Mosquito and then launched into a tremendous version of St. Louis Blues, worthy of the finest New Orleans bawdy house. Sadly, she never played "Radmaninov," though if i'd know she had that arrow in her quiver i surely would have begged for more. She wore one of her turbans and was dressed to the nines in pattern and flamboyance. My impression was of a wonderful, entitled old aunty who did anything she wanted ... because she could. But she was a gracious hostess.

After i read your blog i dug out a 45 rpm she gave me, with "Mr. Mosquito" on one side ("Spoken and Played by...."), and "Forward - A March" ("Composed and Played By...").
It is autographed and dated July 31, 1968, and inscribed, "Success." I don't imagine there are too many of us left who ever met the Hon. Parker, but she was so memorable i have carted this relic around through many house movings for forty years. Delightful to know that there are people out there who enjoy her music.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow her record sold on ebay for almost $300.

8:48 PM  
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11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share this legacy. I am a Liberian born in 1968. My father and most older Liberian that were one way or the other fascinated by her life and songs; sang those songs. My father often pointed to her house that was located somewhere around broad and lynch streets and talked about her songs. The most interesting thing is that one of the family little girls who enjoyed her generosity and lived with her; she even rehearsed some of those songs with her as a back-up, and some ran her errands befitting of a 5-10 year is my wife. "GOOD TYPE" was the grand aunt of my wife. The talents that was laughed at and ignored by most of the Liberian populace is well refined and now polished in the beautiful musical talent in my wife (her grand niece) and my daughter (her great-grand niece. I never got to meet her but her legacy still lives in my home. -RKG

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Lou Smith said...

Here's a photo of her house:

9:37 PM  

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