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Rhythm and Blues Singer, Songwriter, and Guitarist Barbara Lynn

Rhythm and blues singer, songwriter, and Guitarist Barbara Lynn. The left-handed guitarist was one of the first female practioners of the instrument. Her signature song is the 1962 hit Youll Lose a Good Thing. The Rolling Stones recorded her song Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Going) in 1964. After a lengthy hiatus to raise a family, Lynn made a come back in 1986. Her new album is Hot Night Tonight (Antone Records).


Other segments from the episode on January 15, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 15, 2001: Interview with Clayborne Carson; Interview with Maxwell Kennedy; Interview with Barbara Lynn.


DATE January 15, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Clayborne Carson discusses some of the history involved
in the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Today we talk about the civil rights
speeches of Martin Luther King.

(Soundbite from August, 1967)

Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr.: ...let us be dissatisfied. Until the tragic
walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city
of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of

Group of People: (In unison) Yes, Lord.

Dr. KING: ...let us be dissatisfied.

Group of People: (In unison) Yes.

Dr. KING: Until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history...

Group of People: (In unison) Yes.

Dr. KING: ...and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home, let us
be dissatisfied.

Group of People: (In unison) Yes.

Dr. KING: Until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed
into bright tomorrows of quality, integrated education, let us be

Group of People: (In unison) Yes.

Dr. KING: Until integration is not seen as a problem, but as an opportunity
to participate in the beauty of diversity, let us be dissatisfied.

Group of People: (In unison) Yes.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh, yeah.

Dr. KING: Until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on
the basis of the content of the character, not on the basis on the color of
their skin, let us be dissatisfied.

Group of People: (In unison) Yes.

(Soundbite of audience applauding)

Dr. KING: Let us be dissatisfied. Until every state capitol...

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, Brother King.

Dr. KING: housed by a governor who will do justly, who will love

Group of People: (In unison) Yeah.

Dr. KING: ...and who will walk humbly with his God, let us be dissatisfied.

GROSS: That's an excerpt of Martin Luther King's address to the 11th annual
convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta in
August of 1967.

Some of King's most famous speeches, as well as some previously unpublished
ones, are collected in a new book and a companion series of cassettes called
"A Call to Conscience." My guest, Clayborne Carson, is the co-editor of this
project. He also directs the King Papers Project, which is responsible for
editing and publishing King's writings. Carson is a history professor at
Stanford University. We invited him to choose a few excerpts from King's
speeches, and to share some of his thoughts about them. Let's start with
King's first civil rights speech. He delivered it on the first day of the
Montgomery bus boycott in December of 1955. I asked Clayborne Carson about
the occasion for the speech.

Professor CLAYBORNE CARSON (Co-Editor, "A Call to Conscience"): We wouldn't
be talking about Martin Luther King if not for Rosa Parks. Because it was her
action on December 1st, 1955, of refusing to give up her seat on a bus that
started the Montgomery bus boycott. And it was actually Rosa Parks and
Montgomery women who thought up the idea of the boycott, and passed around
thousands of leaflets and were able to successfully get nearly all of
Montgomery's black residents to stay off the buses on Monday the 5th.

And at that point, the ministers in town, most of them--all of them men,
decided to get together and form the Montgomery Improvement Association. And
that was when they selected Martin Luther King to lead this boycott movement
that had already begun. And he was asked to address a major rally that was
going to be held at Holt Street Baptist Church that night. And as he recalled
later, he only had a few minutes--maybe 15 to 20 minutes--to prepare what was
the most decisive speech of his life because this was his first major speech
to a public audience.

GROSS: He says that this is a movement of Christians, that he wants it said
that, `We are not here advocating violence. The only weapon that we have in
our hands this evening is the weapon of protest.' Where was he when he gave
this speech in his thinking, in his development about civil disobedience?

Prof. CARSON: Well, first of all, he was not really an accomplished
practitioner of Gandhian non-violence. At that point, he even--a few weeks
later applies for a gun permit, which might be surprising. He had not really
made his commitment to non-violence, or at least Gandhian non-violence, as a
philosophy of life. That would come later. But even at this early stage, he
understands that non-violence is a necessity as a tactic. And I think that
what you see coming out of this speech is an understanding of how it was
related to the long-term struggle for civil rights under the Constitution of
the United States.

GROSS: What did he plan on doing with the gun? Do you know?

Prof. CARSON: Well, it was for protection. He got many threats during the
first few weeks of the protest. There was times when he thought that he had
made a mistake by agreeing to become the leader. Rosa Parks--she writes an
introduction to this speech for the volume. And one of the things that she
points out is that a part of the reason why King was selected was because he
was new. And therefore, as a minister in town, he didn't have any enemies.
There was also the thought that maybe a young person without a lot of
responsibilities. If someone had to go to jail, it might as well be him as
opposed to maybe a minister with a large family or someone else like that.
But I think it was largely the fact that he was the newcomer in town and he
hadn't really developed the enemies that might have come later.

GROSS: There's a couple of short excerpts from this first civil rights speech
that Martin Luther King gave that you'd like us to hear. Would you introduce
the first part for us?

Prof. CARSON: Well, I think that when we look at this speech, we see so many
of the themes that he develops in his later speeches that are also included in
the volume, particularly his understanding that the movement is about
gaining--realizing the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence. So in this excerpt, he talks about if we are wrong, `If we in
Montgomery who are carrying on this protest are wrong, the Supreme Court of
the nation is wrong, the Constitution is wrong, God Almighty is wrong.' So I
think he develops that theme with a passion and an eloquence that is

GROSS: This is Martin Luther King on December 5th, 1955.

(Soundbite from December 5, 1955)

(Soundbite of audience applauding)

Dr. KING: And we are not wrong. We are not wrong in what we are doing.

Unidentified Man #2: Well...

Dr. KING: If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes, sir.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong.

Unidentified Man #2: That's right.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer
that never came down to Earth.

Unidentified Woman #1: Yes.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: If we are wrong, justice is a lie...

Unidentified Woman #1: Yes.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: has no meaning.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until
justice runs down like water...

Unidentified Woman #2: Yes.

Dr. KING: ...and righteousness like a mighty stream.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

GROSS: That was an excerpt of Martin Luther King's first civil rights speech
given in 1955. Clayborne Carson has just edited a book and a set of cassettes
called "A Call to Conscience," collecting the civil rights speeches of Martin
Luther King.

Clayborne Carson, what would you say about Martin Luther King's oratory style
in this first civil rights speech compared to his style later on?

Prof. CARSON: Well, I think, first of all, you see how he is such an
accomplished orator even at this early stage. At this point, he is still 26
years old. He is a person who has only spent a year as a minister of a
church. But yet, you see that power, that confidence. The fact that he only
had a few minutes to prepare this speech meant that most of it was going to be
extemporaneous. I think that what you see there is a remarkably accomplished
orator at a very young age.

GROSS: Let's skip ahead to the end of this first civil rights speech given by
Martin Luther King. Tell us a little about what to listen for.

Prof. CARSON: Well, again, what King tries to do here is try to take a local
event--at this point, it's a one-day bus boycott. So we don't even know that
it's going to succeed. We don't even know if it's going to go on for any
length of time. It actually ends up going on for more than a year, but we
don't know that at this time.

But what King is able to do at the end of that first day is tell his audience
that there are involved in a historic protest, something that will be written
about in the history books of the future. And he understands that this is an
important moment in African-American history. There lived a race of people, a
black people, a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights.
And they have injected new meaning into the veins of history and civilization.

GROSS: Let's hear his conclusion to this speech.

(Soundbite from December 5, 1955)

Dr. KING: As we stand and sit here this evening and as we prepare ourselves
for what lies ahead, let us go out with a grim and bold determination that
we are going to stick together.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: We are going to work together.

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: Right here in Montgomery, when the history books are written in
the future...

Unidentified Man #2: Yes!

Dr. KING: ...somebody will have to say, `There lived a race of people'...

Unidentified Man #2: Yes!

Dr. KING: ...`a black people'...

Group of People: (In unison) Yes!

Dr. KING: ...`fleecy locks and black complexion'...

Group of People: (In unison) Yes!

Dr. KING: ...`a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their

Group of People: (In unison) Yes!

(Soundbite of audience applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: And thereby, they injected a new meaning into the veins of history
and of civilization.

Group of People: (In unison) Yes!

Dr. KING: And we're gonna do that. God grant that we will do it before it's
too late.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh, yeah.

Dr. KING: As we proceed with our program, let us think of these things.

Unidentified Man #2: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: That's the end of Martin Luther King's first civil rights speech,
given at the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott in December of 1955.
When Martin Luther King was talking about this being the beginning of a very
important movement, do you think he had any idea that he would be the leader
of that movement?

Prof. CARSON: I think he understood that he was going to play a leadership
role because, at that time, that's what black ministers did. His father had
been a minister. His grandfather had been a minister. His great-grandfather
had been a minister. His grandfather and his father had been leaders of the
NAACP. So he understood that he was going to play a leadership role. That
was one of the reasons why he became a minister because it was one of the few
areas where a black person was able to perform a leadership role but also have
a certain amount of independence because it was one of the few professions
where a black person was not dependent upon whites to pay their salary. So I
think the leadership was always there. He didn't understand the scale of the
leadership, I think that that was something that was more thrust upon him.
And I think he had a lot of ambivalence about that because he saw it--civil
rights leadership as subordinate to his role as being a minister. Eventually,
that began to take over from that role and began to become the center of his
life; something that dominated his life even to the point where he was not
able to, often, show up on Sunday morning to deliver the sermon and to take
care of his family responsibilities.

GROSS: My guest is Clayborne Carson, co-editor of "A Call to Conscience," a
new book and cassette collection of Martin Luther King's civil rights

Let's skip ahead to the final speech that Martin Luther King gave. And this
was the day before he was assassinated. This was April 3rd of 1968 in
Memphis, Tennessee. What was the occasion of this address?

Prof. CARSON: Well, this was one of those addresses that he hadn't planned to
give. He had been called back to Memphis. In some ways, Memphis, as a whole,
was one of the accidents of the movement. He had not intended that to be the
major focus of his activity. But the Memphis garbage workers' strike was
something that he could not avoid. The first decision he makes is not to go
at all. He's very tired, very exhausted. He wants to send Ralph Abernathy to
speak for him. But, quickly, he gets the message that the people there are
very, very excited. They're very enthusiastic. They want to hear him. And
he decides to come.

And, of course, at this point he doesn't have a prepared text. But what's
remarkable about the speech--he obviously doesn't know it's going to be his
last speech, but in it he's able to look back over his career and reflect on
the meaning of it. And he goes through and talks about the incident in 1958
when he is stabbed by a deranged woman, who stabs him with a knife that comes
very close to his heart. His doctor tells him if he had sneezed, he would
have died because that would have punctured his heart. And he says, `I'm glad
I didn't sneeze because if I had not lived past that, I would not have been
there for the sit-ins in 1960, for the freedom rides.' So he understands the
significance of his life and how these events have culminated in the Memphis

GROSS: This is the speech that's most famous for his lines about how he'd
been to the mountain top.

Prof. CARSON: That's right, but I think that that's the part of the
speech--just--the way I would compare it would be--we only hear, often, the "I
Have a Dream" speech. We only hear the end of it. And many of the most
interesting parts are before that. But King, to some degree, has been reduced
to a soundbite. And I think the same with the last speech; we tend to hear
the last part, `I've been to the mountain top,' which, of course, is a great
culmination, a great climax to the speech. But the earlier part of the
speech, I think, is the most interesting, the most revealing because that's
where he's able to articulate his understanding of the importance of his own

GROSS: There's a particular moment in this speech that I know you'd like us
to hear, with an image that you particularly like. Would you just tell us why
you've singled out this particular passage?

Prof. CARSON: Well, I think that for King, the crucial event of the civil
rights struggle was the confrontation in Birmingham between Bull Conner and
the mostly young people who were marching against his police dogs and the fire
hoses. And he focuses on this moment because he understands and, I think, he
wants his audience to understand that the forces that they represent; the
forces of people marching for their own freedom are stronger than the forces
of oppression.

GROSS: Here's Martin Luther King.

(Soundbite from April 3, 1968)

Dr. KING: We aren't gonna let any Mace stop us. We are masters in our
non-violent movement in disarming police forces. They don't know what to do.
I've seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in
that majestic struggle there. We would move out of the 16th Street Baptist
Church day after day. By the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Conner
would tell them to send the dogs forth. And they did come. But we just went
before the dogs singing, `Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around.'

(Soundbite of crowd applauding and cheering)

Dr. KING: Bull Conner, next, would say, `Turn the fire hoses on.' As I said
to you the other night, Bull Conner didn't know history. He knew a kind of
physics that somehow didn't relate to the trans-physics that we knew about.
And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water
could put out.

(Soundbite of crowd applauding and cheering)

GROSS: That's an excerpt of Martin Luther King's final speech given the day
before he was assassinated.

Are there any specific issues that you're thinking about on this Martin Luther
King Day?

Prof. CARSON: I think, for me, part of what I see represented by this day is
the time to remember how strong the ideas of Martin Luther King are. We often
think of him in a very limiting way, as a civil rights leader; particularly as
an African-American civil rights leader. But his significance goes far beyond
that. And his ideas have had an impact far beyond that. The thing I would
like to emphasize is the importance of non-violent struggles in the world
today. We've seen over the last 50 years in so many different nations--in the
Philippines and South Africa and Eastern Europe--the way in which struggles
that were once assumed could only be resolved through violence were resolved,
largely, through non-violence. And I think in each of those cases we see the
influence and the impact of Martin Luther King's ideas. He's, in many
respects, I think, respected and revered more outside the United States than
inside the United States because, again, many Americans tend to limit him by
thinking of him simply as an African-American civil rights leader.

GROSS: What do you think King might say if he were alive today about the
politics of race today?

Prof. CARSON: Well, I think, first of all, he would put the politics of race
in a larger context. He always understood that the African-American struggle
was part of a larger struggle of oppressed people and particularly people who
are economically oppressed. His emphasis on the gap between the rich and the
poor, that would be even a stronger message from Martin Luther King today than
it was then because, of course, we've achieved many of the goals that he
struggled for, in terms of race relations, but we are far away from achieving
the goals that he spent the last few years of his life struggling for, and
that is the goal of economic democracy, the goal of trying to take care of the
needs of those who are most oppressed in our society.

GROSS: Clayborne Carson, thank you so much for talking with us.

Prof. CARSON: Thank you very much, Terry.

GROSS: Clayborne Carson. He co-edited "A Call to Conscience," the new book
and cassette collections of King's civil rights speeches. Carson is a history
professor at Stanford University.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Maxwell Kennedy discusses the speech his father gave
the day of Martin Luther King's assassination

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The day that Martin Luther King was assassinated, Robert Kennedy made a speech
about King. Just two months later, Kennedy was killed by an assassin. On the
30th anniversary of Robert Kennedy's assassination, I spoke with his son Max.
Max was three when his father died. When we spoke, he had just edited a
collection of his father's speeches. I asked him to read and talk about his
father's remarks on the death of Martin Luther King.

Mr. MAXWELL TAYLOR KENNEDY (Son of Robert F. Kennedy): My father was
scheduled to speak in Indianapolis that evening, and while he was on the plane
he got word that Dr. King had been shot and was going to die. And this
announcement had not been made public, so it fell to my father to give this
terrible news to the people of Indianapolis. And he was scheduled to speak in
what was then called the ghetto, and as his escort drove into one of the
poorest areas in the city, the police who were escorting him pulled away and
refused to drive in. My father's car continued, but the car carrying his
speech followed the police officers. So he found himself that night in this
very poor area with no speech.

And he started by saying, `I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow
citizens and for people who love peace all over the world, and that is that
Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.' And at that point on the
recording there's a terrible gasp from the crowd. And then my father picks up
again and he says, `Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to
justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort. In
this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is
perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to
move in. For those of you who are black, considering the evidence there
evidently is, that there were white people who were responsible, you can be
filled with bitterness, with hatred and with the desire for revenge. We can
move in that direction as a country in great polarization, black people
amongst blacks, white people amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one

`Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to
comprehend and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has
spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and
distrust at the injustice of such an act against all white people, I can only
say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of
my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an
effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to go
beyond these rather difficult times.'

And then he quoted from memory his favorite poet, Aeschylus. And he said, `My
favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote, "In our sleep, pain which cannot
forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against
our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."'

And he finished that speech by asking the people there to go back to their
homes and to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King and also to say
a prayer for the United States, and the remarkable thing is that that night
there were riots across the country. I think there were riots in 186 cities
and towns in the United States, and Indianapolis was quiet.

GROSS: Max Kennedy, recorded in 1998.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Barbara Lynn discusses her early career in music and
her subsequent comeback

Back in the '50s, Elvis Presley inspired teen-age boys around the country to
learn guitar and join bands. Down in Beaumont, Texas, another teen-ager
wanted to become the next Elvis, but this one's name was Barbara. Barbara
Lynn Ozen had started playing electric guitar and writing songs when she
formed an all-girl band in high school. She was discovered by famed Gulf
Coast record producer Huey P. Meaux. In 1962 they put out a record of Lynn's
song "You'll Lose a Good Thing." It became a top-10 hit and Lynn went on the
road with the soul music tours of the time, sharing the bill with Jackie
Wilson, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke. Lynn had several
subsequent minor hits, appeared on "American Bandstand" twice, and The Rolling
Stones recorded one of her songs. But in her 20s, Barbara Lynn started a
family and didn't have much time for music. Now at 58 she's back with a new
CD called "Hot Night Tonight." Let's start with a song from it. This is "I
Let a Good Man Go."

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BARBARA LYNN: (Singing) I let a good man go, yes I did. I let a good
man go. I never really told him how much I care 'cause I didn't realize that
man was so rare. But now he's gone, there ain't nothing I can do, y'all. Say
to myself, girl, you've been a fool. Been a fool, girl. He was good to me,
but I hurt him constantly. I pushed him right out of my life, but now, now
I'm paying the price for letting a good man go.

GROSS: That's Barbara Lynn from her new CD "Hot Night Tonight."

Barbara Lynn, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Ms. LYNN: Thank you very much, Terry.

GROSS: Let's go back to your musical beginnings. You got started on piano
and ukelele. Where did the ukelele come in?

Ms. LYNN: Yes. When I was a young girl, I played an Arthur Godfrey ukelele.
The thing about it is my mother noticed that I was playing--I mean, I was
acting like I was playing the keyboard, and I was also trying to act like I
was playing a guitar, also.

GROSS: Kind of like playing air guitar?

Ms. LYNN: Yes. So she went out and bought me a $10.95 Arthur Godfrey
ukelele. And I learned and, I mean, and I taught myself how to play some
songs from that, you know, and it just--we went on from there. And after my
parents noticed that I was so into in music, they finally went on and bought
me, I should say, a real guitar, you know, a real one then. And I really--you
know, then I really took it then, you know. I just--this is what I wanted to

GROSS: What kind of songs had you been playing on the ukelele? Were you
playing blues on the ukelele?

Ms. LYNN: Yes. I was playing the songs like the "Things That I Used To Do"
by Guitar Slim, and I was also into the B.B. King-type music, too, and I even
admired Brenda Lee's style of singing, too, Connie Francis and, you know,
people like that, you know.

GROSS: Now you've said that Elvis Presley was a big influence on you.

Ms. LYNN: Oh, yes.

GROSS: What did you hear and see in him that inspired you?

Ms. LYNN: Oh, yes. Well, when I first tuned into Elvis on television, I
mean, you know, just like everybody else went wild, so did I, because I liked
his style of singing, and also liked the way he--you know, the way he handled
his instrument, also, even though I'm left-handed and Elvis was right-handed.
But when I was in grade school the kids were telling me that I was trying to
wear my hair like Elvis, and I guess I did. I guess I did, kind of combed it
like that, but I guess I weren't aware of it, but I mean, because I was just
so into his music, I just liked his style, you know.

GROSS: Now you formed an all-girl band in high school.

Ms. LYNN: Yes, I did. The name of the group was Bobbie Lynn and Her
Idols(ph). And although, you know, the Idols didn't stay with Bobbie Lynn,
though, because, well, they went separate ways. You know, we had one girl,
you know, she didn't want to travel. And then there was another one I
think--I'm not sure, but I think she had gotten pregnant or something, and so
she had to leave the group. But I was very much into what I was doing and I
knew what I wanted to do in the future after I finished high school. I wanted
to be a recording artist, so I pursued my career.

GROSS: This is a good time to hear your first hit, which was recorded in
1962, "You'll Lose a Good Thing."

Ms. LYNN: Yes.

GROSS: Why don't you tell us about this recording session, what it was like
for you...


GROSS: be in there and actually doing it?

Ms. LYNN: OK. All right. First of all, it was very exciting to know that I
had a record contract and I was going in to record some of the songs that I
had written, that I had ready, because as a matter of fact, when the manager
came to me, I was already ready for a full album because I was always writing
poems in school, so I was, you know--so that part of it was really together,
and especially that one, although that one got a story behind it, Terry.

GROSS: Let's hear it. Let's hear the story.

Ms. LYNN: The story is I was going with this guy named Sylvester, and, well,
we were very young, you know, and I saw him talking to this young lady and I
thought he was going with her and I told him off about it and he said, no, he
said, this is just his friend's sister that he was talking to. But there was
nothing else that he can tell me. I was very set on saying that this was
another girl. So I went home and I boo-hooed, you know, and I end up writing,
you know, words from it the very next day and he would call and call and say
he was so sorry and I said, `Sylvester, there's nothing you can tell me,
because if you lose me, you're gonna lose a good thing.' So I had done told
him this phrase three or four times, and then to really stop and think about
it, and I was already a songwriter, you know, so I said, `Wait a minute. I
can write this phrase into a song,' and that's what I did. And that one song
opened a lot of doors for me.

GROSS: Let's hear it. This is Barbara Lynn, recorded in 1962.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LYNN: (Singing) If you should lose me, oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing.
If you should lose me, oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing. You know I love
you, do anything for you. Just don't mistreat me and I'll be good to you.
'Cause if you should lose me, oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing.

GROSS: That's my guest, Barbara Lynn, recorded in 1962.

What was your look back then? What did you wear on stage?

Ms. LYNN: Oh, first of all, I had wigs. Not only I, but all of us. When I
say all of us, I mean people like Diana, because we were all out there, you
know, on tours, you know, and we all carried those big boxes with the wigs in

GROSS: What kind of wig did you wear? What kind of look was it?

Ms. LYNN: Let's see. Kind of a long wig, yeah. Flipped up, not under, but
up. And the reason why I'm laughing is because right today if you walk into
my home, you'll see a big giant picture of me with the wig on. And it's in
color, though, of course, but that was the kind of look that we had. And sort
of like--OK, not bangs, but just sort of a little curl coming down to the
right. Yeah.

GROSS: A spit curl?

Ms. LYNN: Yeah.

GROSS: Now I think you were underage when you started recording and I think
your producer had to get your parents' permission for you to sign with the
record company?

Ms. LYNN: Yes. Yes. Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Were they enthusiastic about giving you permission to launch a
professional career?

Ms. LYNN: Well, yes and no. OK, my mother was. My father was a little
bit--you know, he was a little bit against it in a way because he wanted me to
go to college. And so he told my producer, said, `Well, if Barbara doesn't
make a hit record during this first trial, she would have to go on to
college.' And so we all agreed. So I said OK. So that's when they took me on
into the studio and we recorded the album "If You Should Lose Me, You'll Lose
A Good Thing," and "You'll Lose a Good Thing" was a winner, so my father
didn't pester me into going to college. But I wish I would have gone, though,
anyway, Terry, 'cause that was a good thing for him to, you know, tell me that
I should go on, you know? And...

GROSS: Now your mother traveled with you on your first tour.

Ms. LYNN: Yes. When I first started out, my mother started traveling with
me. My father thought it was best because I was green behind the ears, being
so young, and I hadn't did that kind of traveling before, so when I had to do
my first tour, he told her to go on out there with me, and she did. And today
I thank her so much, Terry, and she's still living, too. She's 78 years old.
The reason why I thank her so dearly about it is because at that time, you
know, well, drugs were going, but not as strong as it is today, and I did not
want to be out there for those things anyway. No, no, no, no. I loved her
for being out there with me. Oh, yes. I mean, we had good times. And then
after I would finish performing, we'd go back to my room and we'd count my
money, you know. Now that was fun. That was the good part about it--so
young, making this kind of money. Oh, boy. No, no.

GROSS: Now The Rolling Stones recorded one of your songs.

Ms. LYNN: Yes. They recorded "Oh Baby We Got a Good Thing Going."

GROSS: How did that come about?

Ms. LYNN: And that was exciting. That was exciting, too. Well, oh, I was
sitting at my home when I got a phone call from Huey, my manager then, and
Huey say, `Doll'--well, that's what he would call me. He said, `Doll, I
have someone on the other end that would like to speak to you.' So I told him
OK. So he put the guy on the telephone and he said, `Hi, Barbara. This is
Mick Jagger.' I said, `Who? Mick Jagger?' And he said, `Yes, of The Rolling
Stones.' Oh boy. And so you must have imagined how I felt and what I was
looking like and I was saying, `Well, how are you?' He said, `I'm doing very
well.' He said, `Barbara, we would like to cover one of your songs, "Oh Baby
We Got a Good Thing Going," and we're here discussing it now with your
manager, Huey Meaux, and with your permission, we'd like to do it if it's all
right with you.' So I told him, `You have my full permission to record "We
Got a Good Thing Going."' He said, `OK,' you know, and it was really exciting
too, Terry, you know?

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear your version and their version back to back?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LYNN: (Singing) You may talk about me and scandalize my name, but deep
down inside, baby, I know you're my only man. So don't worry about me, baby,
'cause I'm right here at home. Oh baby, oh baby, we've got a good thing

THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) So maybe I knew her once upon a time. But
that's all in the past, baby. Baby, let me know you're mine, all mine, all
mine. No matter how much she wants me, I'm not going nowhere. I'm gonna
stick right here, babe. I know how much you care. So don't worry about me,
baby, 'cause I'm right here at home. Oh baby, oh baby, we've got a good thing
going. Got a good thing going.

GROSS: Barbara Lynn, what did you think the The Stones' version of your song?

Ms. LYNN: You know, Terry, I really wouldn't have cared how they would have
recorded it, just knowing it was coming from The Rolling Stones. But no,
though, really, I really enjoyed it. Mm-hmm. Yeah. In fact, I still got
that copy at home, too. Yeah.

GROSS: You got married and had children pretty early in your career.

Ms. LYNN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: How did that affect your ability to perform and record?

Ms. LYNN: Yes. Well, I had to slow down a bit. I had three children--well,
I got three children, and I've got two girls and a boy, and I had my first
child when I was 29, and so that did slow me down, but Terry, when I was doing
my gigs--in fact, for all three of my kids, I always worked up until my eighth
month. I was just so blessed to be able to work that long, you know. But I
was under a good doctor. And so--but getting back to it slowing me down, it
did, though, because I was unable into the studio at times when I was called
upon to go in and to record another song. I either didn't feel good or I just
wasn't for it or, you know, I just didn't have that, you know, that spirit to
go in to sing, you know. Sometimes I was dizzy and that's just it.

GROSS: Sure.

Ms. LYNN: So it did slow me down for some things, yes.

GROSS: Well, you have a son who makes an appearance on your new CD.

Ms. LYNN: Oh, yes. Bachelor.

GROSS: Yeah. So why don't we hear that track? And this is called "You're
the Man." Tell us how you ended up recording with him on this track.

Ms. LYNN: OK. My producer, Don Smith, we were having, I think, Chinese food
one night after we had just gotten out of the studio in Arroyo, California,
and Don--well, I had already told Don about Wise. Well, we all--the family
call him Wise. His real name is Bachelor Wise Johnson. But I call him Wise.
So I was telling him that I have a son named Wise, who is a rapper. I say,
`Although he hasn't really made it big yet, but he's still trying,' and so he
said, `Well, Barbara, you ever thought about maybe putting a little rap in
your music here in "You're the Man?" And so my son came in--I mean went in,
rather, and we recorded it and Wise did his rap part to it.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear it? This is "You're the Man."

Ms. LYNN: That's the story.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BACHELOR WISE JOHNSON: (Rapping) ...(Unintelligible) the queen of blues
putting me down with the sound that you can't lose ...(unintelligible) with
the downhome blues keeping the truth bustin' in the new millenni with
something new. Barbara Lynn, she said it before, I'll say it again. You lose
me, you lose a good thing. Hip-hop meets blues, huh, 'nuff said. Hell of a
combo, like Oprah and Jenny Craig. ...(Unintelligible) the man to me doing
things in his life that you can't believe.

Group of Singers: You know.

Mr. JOHNSON: (Rapping) Heard about your canopy.

Group of Singers: Hello.

Mr. JOHNSON: (Rapping) Bring your funk to the jamboree. Come on, P. We
rolls in the Bentley. Ice on your pinky that chills the hand gently. Get
down on Melrose not just Fargo. Put you on a cloud on the ...(unintelligible)
to go.

Ms. LYNN: (Singing) I thought I would never find love again, yeah. Oh,

Mr. JOHNSON: (Rapping) Right here. Right here. Yeah.

Ms. LYNN: (Singing) But then I met you. Love is strange, strange, strange.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh.

GROSS: Now that you have a son who would like to be in the music business,
does it make you think of when you were young and your mother accompanied you
on your first tour?

Ms. LYNN: Yes. Yes, indeed, it does. And I always tell him to be careful
what you sign, because your mother, you know, had to get out there. I mean,
it was easy for me to get a recording contract at first, but you have to read
the fine print of any contract that you sign, and this is something that I did
not do, you know, and a lot of my royalties today have been, I must say,
Terry, messed up, you know, because I didn't get what I should've gotten. But
I'm like this, you know. I hang in this type of music--I mean, in this type
of business because I love the business I'm in, but I would tell any new
artist of today be careful what you sign and let a lawyer read it, and that's
what I tell my son, also.

GROSS: Well, I want to play something else from your new CD "Hot Night
Tonight," and this is something that--it's just you and guitar.

Ms. LYNN: Oh, yes. Oh. Oh my goodness, yes.

GROSS: It's called "It's Been So Long."

Ms. LYNN: "It's Been So Long." Terry, I wrote that in about 30 minutes in my
room after Don called me and said, `Barbara, we need one more song on here,
and why don't we do it with just you and your guitar?' So I said, `Don, just
me and my instrument?' He said, `Yeah.' I said, `You think that's gonna sound
good?' He said, `Oh, yeah.' He said, `Let's just'--you know, Don is the kind
of producer like this. He makes you feel so much at home you just want to
record anything, you know. But anyway, so I did what he told me to do. I
hurriedly wrote a song within about 30 minutes and I told him, `I've got it'
and so he said, `OK.' And so when he picked me up, we went back to the studio
and we recorded it, and I titled it "It's Been So Long."

GROSS: Well, before we hear it, let me thank you so much for coming today and
for speaking with us.

Ms. LYNN: Oh, wow. I just want to thank you for having me.

GROSS: Barbara Lynn's new CD is called "Hot Night Tonight."


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LYNN: (Singing) It's been so long since I heard from you. Been so long.
Finally we're through. You haven't said a word about missing me. But, honey,
I been, been in misery. But you still look good. You look so fine. Oh, and
I still want to make you mine, all mine. Two hundred phone calls that I made
to you, but I couldn't get through, through to you...
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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