Good morning. It's the first day of July.
To get this month started off right, we turn to the brilliant singer/songwriter Shaina Shepherd. Her message today includes an original song, one she wrote here in Seattle.
"It's called 'Back of the Bus,' and it was deeply inspired by my musical mother-muse, Miss Nina Simone," she says.
"I wrote this song as an ode to her, and an ode to my beautiful, proud legacy of Blackness passed on to me by my family. And I wrote it inspired by my life in Seattle, Washington. I hope that you enjoy it. I hope that you find light and love in it, and joy, and above all else, clarity—in the shared fact that we are all one of a kind."
Here, let her set up the song for you herself:
Shaina describes herself as an "anthem artist"—translating pivotal moments in human history through her unique form of poetry. Her biggest inspirations are often poets: Mark Twain, James Weldoyn Johnson, Maya Angelou. In "Back of the Bus," she refers to Gertrude Stein.
Her dynamic vocals combine the power of theater with the tender introspection of American folk music. Here she is performing "Back of the Bus":
The lyrics include these lines:
Oh pardon me, but won’t you please adhere to my request:
You’re standing strong right in my back so why not take rest?
No, not on your own laurels but if you must be my guest.
It’s not so fun to stand alone but less to be oppressed.
Shaina grew up around gospel music and not much else. She would watch her mother sing with the church choir and emulate the steady richness of her tone. Her passion for vocal technique led her to opera, then to musical theater, and then right back to opera. Shaina studied and worked in the classical music world for many years.
Known also as the front woman to soul-grunge band BEARAXE, her notable vocal stylings have brought her into various creative spaces—from sharing stages with rock stars like Dave Matthews and Thunderpussy to being a soloist with classical ensembles around the country.
Thank you for sharing your amazing voice, your uncontainable talents, and your tremendous heart with us this morning, Shaina.
What a brilliant song, and what a superb performance.
Good luck out there with whatever you're facing, everyone.
Previously in this series: