Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Betty Wright: a Woman Wronged

I don’t know what happened to soul singer Betty Wright to make her distrust so many members of her gender, but I assume it was something rough — the kind of emotional kick to the gut that leaves a person resentful for the rest of her life. I say this in light of a trio of tracks in Wright’s discography that share a particular, specific theme.

betty wright: be glad she didn’t write a song about you

Let’s start with “Secretary.” (There doesn’t seem to be any YouTube clip available, but the song is easily downloaded on iTunes for those interested.) The lyrics go as follows:
It’s very ordinary for the secretary
To take a man away from his wife
Girls, we make it necessary for the secretary
To put a little joy in his life

She takes the time to listen
To what he has to say
While all you do is nag him
A thousand times a day

Her hair is always pretty
And her clothes are always stylish
But you greet him with your hair in rollers and
That’s outdated and so childish

Oh, it’s very ordinary for the secretary
To take a man away from his wife
We make it necessary for the secretary
To put a little joy in his life

Are you there when he needs you?
Are your favors less then cute?
And when he tries to love you
Do you find something else to do?
You get the idea. Secretaries, being inherently superior to women who don’t sit at desks and answer phones, will swoop in an steal their male bosses from their wives by making the slightest effort to look presentable. You withered termagants at home, with oatmeal flakes dried to your dingy bathrobes, you have this coming unless you switch up your act. Put down the rolling pin and take up a tube of lipstick. It’s not the most progressive statement, I suppose, but it’s also not terrible advice, especially if directed to the Loretta Lockhorns of the world.

So there’s that. All in all, it’s a pretty catchy song. It even has the honor of helping inform a track by the great RJD2 — “Ghostwriter.” And it perhaps wouldn’t be notable unless considered in context with another Betty Wright song, “Clean Up Woman.” That’s not a command, that title. No, it’s another suspicious profession that women can hold, much like “Secretary.”

The video:

And the first few lyrics:
A clean up woman
Is a woman who
Gets all the love we girls leave behind

The reason I know
So much about her
Is because she picked up a man of mine
It goes on in a fashion you should be able to predict after having read about “Secretary.” Granted, the job described in the song isn’t so much a literal female custodian so much as a metaphorical one, but I think it nonetheless carries on the theme established by “Secretary.” “Clean Up Woman” was a bigger hit than “Secretary,” though I would listen to the former before the latter, if pressed.

And then there’s “Baby Sitter.”

The video:

And some lyrics:
When my best friend said she had lost her man
To her babysitter I thought she was lying
I said no sixteen-year-old schoolgirl
Could ever take a man of mine

Staying home with our baby all the time
It kept me kind of brokenhearted
So I went and hired myself a babysitter
And that's when my trouble all started

This sixteen-year-old chick walked in
With a skirt up to her waist
She had a truckload of you know what
And all of it in place
Of the three songs, I think “Baby Sitter” is probably the least, though the “Rock-a-bye Baby” intro is pretty great. As far as telling a cautionary tale, it’s also a lot more in line with “Secretary.” It also makes for the third Betty Wright song of this nature — and that makes a pattern.

I’m endlessly amused that this trilogy exists. I don’t know what it means, and I don’t know if ol’ Betty realized how much of herself she putting out there as a result of singing song after song about treacherous women. I also think she shouldn’t have stopped with these three. To end this short little study with an air of what-could-have-been, I’ve had some ideas about where the trend could have gone.
  • “Waitress”
  • “Stewardess”
  • “Single Neighbor”
  • “Lady Bartender”
  • “Hat Check Girl”
  • “Attractive Grocery Clerk”
  • “The Toll Booth Girl”
  • “Crossing Guard”
  • “Sexy Nun”
  • “My Sister Estelle”
  • “Passable Tranny”
  • “That Maid I Fired… What Was Her Name? Pilar? Penelope?”
  • “Pat Nixon”
  • “Sexy Alien”
  • “My Sister Estelle, Again”
  • “Secretary of Agriculture”
  • “Dammit, Estelle — I Swear I’ll Take Out Your Eye If You Do This Again.”
  • “Mother”
If only Betty’s rage had continued.

1 comment:

  1. Your projected song list cracks me up! PASSABLE TRANNY?!?! Amazing stuff, that.