Janiva Magness, who has been nominated 28 times at the Blues Music Awards, has an autobiography hot off the presses this week Weeds Like Us (Fathead). Magness has received a high degree of validation in the music world as a seven-time winner of annual Blues Music awards, including winning Song of the Year, Contemporary Female Artist of the Year, and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year (Koko Taylor is the only other woman to have won the B.B. King award).
But in addition, her life’s path has been a particularly fascinating one, which her book of memoirs chronicles. From the tragedy of both her parents passing away by suicide, to growing up in foster homes, to becoming a spokeswoman for children in foster care and climbing to the heights of the glorious music awards, this story is an inspiration to all of us.
Here’s an excerpt, with ordering formation, first, here: https://www.janivamagness.com
Chapter Twenty Two “Crossroads”
When the master of ceremonies at the awards show announced “And the winner is…,” I didn’t hear any of it. My brain was somewhere else. Roger Nabor, the impresario who puts on blues cruises to a variety of exotic locations, yelled and slapped my arm, barking at me to get up there and claim my award. The crowd was on its feet, screaming. I stared at Roger with a blank look on face. He shouted at me again. “You won! You won! Get up there.”
I leapt to me feet, hurried to the stairs at stage left, traversed two steps in my micro mini skirt and stiletto heels and what did I do in my moment of a lifetime? I fell forward and hit the stage like a load of bricks tossed to the ground. Stunned, I managed to get back on my feet and stumble to the podium. It was scary and hilarious at the same time. I did not land softly; my arm and ankle immediately throbbed with pain. I mumbled something to the audience about being Mrs. Magoo, please forgive my clumsiness. I then gave the most incoherent acceptance speech a person could possibly deliver, the pain in my limbs growing as I stood there and put weight on my damaged ankle.
It was a wild night. I won, nearly maimed myself, acted like a fool at the podium and then had to perform two songs to boot. My band was on its toes, though, ready and able as always. With the rush of winning and all that happened, we cut loose. We played “Prisoner of Your Good Love” and “You Were Never Mine” from our new Do I Move You CD. The crowd was solidly in our corner; the place went nuts. We got a long standing ovation. I was a wobbly, an emotional and physical mess.
I left the stage with every fiber of my body vibrating. I felt like I had been zapped full force with a taser. People swarmed around me backstage, offering pats on the back and congratulations. All of the sudden, there was Bruce Iglauer, the president of Alligator Records who had written me edgy, encouraging, but also critical letters after listening to tapes I had sent him over the years. Suddenly, he wanted to be my best friend.
“We need to talk,” he commanded. “I would be happy to talk,” I told him, trying to ignore the ache in my ankle. I was leaving early the next morning to get back on the road with our tour. We had shows in Texas the next night. There was no time to take a meeting with anyone. I could barely put two words together at that point anyway.
What I really needed more than anything was to limp over to the bathroom and pee. As I made my way to the lobby, I bumped into Taj Mahal, who had been holding court with some friends and admirers. He stopped me in my tracks to say congratulations.
“Do you realize what you have done?” he asked with intensity. “That was an incredible performance! They love you! They all love you, the young ones, the older ones, the black ones and the white ones! Do you realize what you have done? I really dig what you’re doing. It’s very important for us all! Keep doing it. Never stop. We need you.”
Are you fucking kidding me? In my shock and gratitude, I said thank you about a million times before somehow excusing myself to go to the ladies room. I locked myself in one of the stalls and began to sob like a baby. I could not comprehend what had happened. I’d won best female artist of the year and one of my blues heroes, Taj Mahal, had said he loved me. He said I was doing important work. If I’d died then and there, I would have been a happy, satisfied woman.
Now, on top of all of that, Alligator finally wanted to talk to me. It was all too much for me to take in.