Gail Mitchell for BILLBOARD –
Grammy and Tony Award winner Dee Dee Bridgewater returns home to Memphis for her latest album Memphis … Yes, I’m Ready. The jazz icon exclusively premieres one of the album’s tracks, the Staple Singers’ “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad),” on Billboard today (Aug. 9).
The classic is one of the 13 Memphis-associated songs that Bridgewater covers on the new album, set for release Sept. 15 via DDB Records/Okeh/Sony Masterworks. Recorded last fall in Memphis at Willie Mitchell’s (Al Green) renowned Royal Studios, the set was produced by Bridgewater in tandem with Grammy-winning musician Kirk Whalum, Mitchell’s Grammy-winning son Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and Bridgewater’s daughter/manager Tulani Bridgewater. Its playlist also includes such gems as B.B. King’s “The Thrills Is Gone,” Green’s “I Can’t Get Next to You,” and Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”
Originally released in 1966, “Why?” was written by the Staple Singers’ frontman/patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples. He penned the song in response to the mistreatment of the Little Rock Nine (nine black teenaged students) during their integration of the city’s all-white Central High School in 1957.
“I chose ‘Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)’ because of the reference it makes to the social and civil unrest of the ‘50s and ‘60s and the similar unrest we’re experiencing today,” Bridgewater tells Billboard. “The ‘60s were a time of protest, so it was only logical to include a song of protest from that period for inclusion on the album. I love the close harmony of the Staple Singers, and Mavis Staples’ voice was and is a beacon of light.”