“I didn’t choose the blues; the blues chose me,” blues singer Janiva Magness told me.
Truer words, perhaps, have never been spoken.
When Magness was 13, her mother committed suicide. When she was 16, her father followed suit.
So Magness ran away from home. She was homeless on the streets of Berkley, Calif., for six months, and got pregnant when she was 16.
Magness kept her baby girl for four months before realizing she could not take care of the infant, and gave her up for adoption.
Magness herself was in and out of 12 foster homes. She numbed her pain with drink and drugs. She was often homeless, and social workers ultimately didn’t know how to help her, she said.
At 17, she became legally emancipated as an adult.
Today, at 55, Magness is an ambassador for Foster Care Alumni of America.
So her new blues album, “Stronger For It,” is aptly titled — although it’s not really in reference to her childhood.
“Last year, 2011, was a tough year for me,” she said. “I buried eight people who were close to me. My cat died just before Christmas and I lost a 17-year marriage. Things were pretty rough.”
Magness — who hasn’t recorded her own songs since her 1997 debut — co-wrote three for her new album: “There It Is,” “Whistling In The Dark” and “I Won’t Cry.”
Also on her new album, she covers songs by Tom Waits, Matthew Sweet, Buddy and Julie Miller, Shelby Lynne, Grace Potter and Ray Wylie Hubbard — all in her own unique way.
She’ll play at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River April 5. I called up Magness, of Los Angeles, recently.
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