• Sun. May 26th, 2024

Linda Sharrock Has Lost Her Speech, but She’s Still Performing


Jan 8, 2024


Another “Black Woman” musician, the trumpeter Ted Daniel, was a childhood friend of Sonny’s from Ossining, N.Y. “She was one of a kind,” Daniel said in an interview. “I haven’t heard anybody sing with the raw passion and just that kind of freedom that she approached in her singing with Sonny in that band.”

Released on the Vortex subsidiary of Atlantic Records, the trailblazing “Black Woman” failed to find a larger audience. A few years later, the couple put together the Savages, a working band that could play out regularly. The group included steel drums and Latin percussion and gigged at downtown venues like the Tin Palace and lofts like Studio Rivbea, said Abe Speller, the band’s drummer. The Savages recorded a soundtrack to Sedat Pakay’s 1973 short documentary “James Baldwin: From Another Place” and performed a live set in 1974 on WKCR, which are the only surviving souvenirs of their existence. Speller recalled the band holing up to rehearse before entering a studio in December 1977 to record a four-song demo tape, but the group failed to score a label deal and eventually fizzled out.

After Linda and Sonny divorced, she moved to Turkey and then Vienna, where she met her second husband, the Austrian saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig, a few years later. (Sonny died in 1994 at 53.) Initially they were just musical collaborators, Puschnig said in a video call from his home in southern Austria, but a relationship blossomed and they were married in 1987 while in Mozambique for a gig.

Under their own names and in groups like the Pat Brothers, AM4 and Red Sun, Puschnig and Sharrock recorded more than 20 albums together on European and South Korean labels from 1986 to 2007, but her vocal approach had changed markedly. Puschnig said that she moved away from singing in her free style after consulting a former Ziegfeld girl turned palm reader, who told her, “I see you’re a singer, but you don’t use words, but you should because you have a talent to use words.”

“So that’s how she started to do lyrics,” he said.

The jazz fusion bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma performed with them for years, and produced “On Holiday,” Sharrock’s 1990 album of Billie Holiday covers, complete with new jack swing beats and a rapper. “She was pushing the ball,” Tacuma said in an interview, “thinking outside of the box, in terms of music, creativity, and improvisation, and trying to bring something about musically with her voice that had not been done before.”

Puschnig said Sharrock’s health started to deteriorate in the mid-1990s, and though their romantic relationship ended around 1996, they continued working together as late as 2007. Around 2004, Rechtern — who had first met Sharrock in 1979 — began caring for her, and was granted power of attorney in 2007. “She was really falling into the nothingness,” Rechtern said. “If I wouldn’t have taken her she would be in a home.”


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