Pain can bring out the best in an artist. Yes, this is fortunate for the fans but at times a heavy burden on the musician. Over the years we’ve seen Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, Lauryn Hill and later Amy Winehouse speak about battling demons from within. The result often ended in records that showcased emotions most artist could only hope to reach. Mary J. Blige fall into this category as well. As a young woman her voice provided fans with her pleasure and pain. As tears more than likely found it’s way down her face in recording booths, we received her vocal gifts selfishly.
As Mary J. Blige advanced in her career and age, she never stopped giving you a piece of herself. People “feel” MJB because the passion comes off authentic. Women understood her story and if we're being honest, so did the fellas. When it come to relationships, as Pat Benatar said, “Love Is A Battlefield” and MJB was a soldier not afraid, ashamed or reluctant to share battle scars. If she was ever reluctant, we couldn't tell from the music. I remember seeing MJB in concert years ago and the energy in the crowd was amazing. It was like every woman in the arena had been through something that MJB singed about and it resonated. The only time I can compare to this experience was seeing Chaka Khan sing "I'm Every Woman" at a Prince concert, as thousands of Women jointed in. MJB is family to us kind of like the way we view Bernie Mac. We relate to her.
Several weeks ago, I was leaving a Radio Show in Greensboro, NC and I listened to MJB’s My Life album during my ride. The same butterflies I felt in 1994 when I heard certain tracks came back, as I pressed play in 2017. Only the great ones can make you feel this way decades after their music has been released. We watched MJB grow from a young Hip Hop Diva into a historic figure in Soul Music. Her growth as an artist, performer and overall talent aged like fine wine. How can you not appreciate an artist who leaves it all on the table. You know when you hear a MJB song that she gave you everything her soul would allow.
I know that we’ve been fortunate to see MJB release 13 albums of greatness. I would also say that she has 3-4 classic albums that will truly stand the test of time. When I think of Amy Winehouse, she was only able to release 2 albums before her death. Now, I’m not comparing these two artist, I’m simply saying both shared whatever internal struggles they faced with fans. I’m also saying I’m happy MJB got to tell her complete story. Unfortunately, some artist lives are cut short before they can write every chapter. If she never make another record, she has left a portion of herself on the consciousness of millions.
At the end of the day, I hope her influence spawn similar acts in the future. As humans, we all go through pain so artist like MJB are necessary. Let me also say that MJB shared her triumphs as well, and she has a long list of triumphs. MJB took us to the club. MJB danced with us. MJB turned the heads of many men with her beauty. MJB took us to the picnic, alter and church with her versatile style and range. To call Mary J. Blige a legend is an understatement. The inspiration and strength she’s provided to woman (and the fellas) for the past 22 years is nothing short of amazing. We salute MJB and thank her for being who she is……MJB.