The Mental Yentl: Excerpts
MEET THE MENTAL YENTL
I refuse to watch violent or scary TV shows. I just can’t seem to carve out precious free time to sit down in front of an oversized screen and watch a nightmare in living color. I can’t look at zombies with their faces missing as they drag their half-chewed-off limbs and other dripping parts through some dark and creepy parking lot, on their way to have a beer with their wacky next-door neighbors who run the local meth lab.
Those heinous and bloody scenes are not for me. I’ve discovered that one quick accidental glance at any yucky visual will subliminally plant those horrifying messages inside my brain, where they will sit dormant and quiet until some future date, when the subsequent free-floating anxiety will randomly surface and convince me that the tall and handsome dryer repairman is, in fact, an alien who’s wielding a nuclear power pack disguised as a Pringles can. He’ll offer me a Pringle, knowing full well that I can’t refuse a potato chip, and after one bite, I’ll morph into an alien girl and become his drippy love slave, as he blows up my house and kills my husband and children.
Nope, I’ll stick to watching cartoons, sitcoms, and my beloved late-night talk shows.
When it comes to my psyche, I need things easy and smooth, polite and lovely, charming and confrontation-free. I do not spend money on violent films, roller coasters, or the stock market. I'm all out of nerve. I used up my lifetime supply of bravery while raising children. I am now a lazy weenie.
I start each day hoping that the following twelve to sixteen hours will be worry- and chaos-free. But then I always seem to encounter random and silly aggravations that throw me into an antagonizing downward spiral, from which only red Twizzlers, M&M’s, or pharmaceuticals can save me.
For instance, I’m entirely unable to tolerate any clothing that feels—even slightly—scratchy. I must wear my socks and underpants inside out, as I suffer from extreme tactile sensitivity. In recent years, I have found that many people have this same problem.
As a shopper and consumer, my nutty physical comfort issues are a challenge. Thankfully, I’ve discovered the perfect bra for me. I’ve worn the same style for years. I love it, know it, need it, want it, and I’m willing to pay the sixty-three dollars, plus tax, for it.
One day, it was time to refresh my supply, and I planned a nice outing to the mall to visit the one store that carries my brand. After an hour of frustration and inefficient foraging in the lingerie section, I panicked. I couldn’t find my bra anywhere on the racks. (Oooh, snap! Oooh, pardon the double pun! )
I cornered the buxom saleslady. “What happened to Wacoal #3205? I’ve been wearing the same model for nine years. I can’t find it anywhere!”
She shook her head. “I don’t know what they were thinking, but they’ve discontinued some of their best sellers. Everyone is in a snit over this, me included.” The saleslady pointed to her own significant chestal area to show solidarity.
She motioned me over to another rack, loaded with a different brand, and pointed to several bras. “Here try these. They might work for you like the old Wacoals. Let me know what you think.”
I searched for my size among these foreign-looking bras. After grabbing three possibilities, I headed for the dressing room.
I angrily tossed my purse on the floor, took off my coat, and began the tortuous trying-on process. One bra’s straps weren’t stretchy enough for a comfortable wear. Another bra’s underwire gouged me so high in the armpit that I couldn’t put my arms down at my sides. The last bra I had chosen had a four-inch band around the back and with a row of five hook fasteners. What the hell—this was my mother’s bra!
“How you doin’, honey?” the saleswoman shouted over the fitting room door.
“Oh dear, let me see what I can come up with.” She sounded pathetic.
For the next thirty minutes, I stood in front of the mirror, slowly sinking into a despair I hadn’t felt since the last time I went through this—nine years ago. Bra after bra after bra, the saleslady proceeded to bring me everything in her department that had potential, but nothing fit—nothing worked. Finally, I could take no more. I put on my clothes, thanked the frazzled woman, and left the lingerie department.
I headed down the escalator to the first-floor makeup department to pick up a lipstick, hoping to salvage this shopping trip. I’d been wearing MAC’s SeaSheer for an eternity. It was the perfect lip cover for me, with just the right pigment and level of glossy sheen, without being too oily or heavy. MAC products are pricey, so I had finished up every last drop by scooping out the remnants of lipstick with my fingernail and schmearing it on my lips.
When I say there was nothing left in the tube, believe me, even a bobby pin couldn’t glean a thing.
“Hi, can I get a new SeaSheer, please?” I handed my empty tube of lipstick to the twentysomething beauty by the shelves of beautiful MAC products. Dressed in a short black skirt, black sweater, black tights, black shoes, and black hair, the only color she was sporting was on her face. Nice touch.
She took the tube and immediately frowned. “They stopped making this a while back. Let’s find you a new color!”
“I’m sorry, what was that?” I stared at her.
“Follow me.” She motioned at a display case. “We have tons of wonderful new shades and textures!”
Her perky attitude was gonna kill me.
“Seriously?” It was sinking in. “I have to start all over?”
“You’ll be fine! Come on, it’ll be fun!”
This is what I wanted to say: “No, it will not be fun. I don’t give a lab rat’s ass about beautiful new shades. I want what I want, I want what I had, and I don’t want to hear about anything new or anything discontinued. I have just spent an unsuccessful hour in a dressing room hoisting my girls every which way, and now you want me to be flexible and open to change—to go with the cosmetic flow? What happened to retail therapy? There is no therapy here, only issues. There is only hell now. It appears that I have discovered that there is, indeed, a hell right here in Nordstrom—which, by the way, I have always considered to be the Mecca of Retail Heaven. Until now. Peace out, bitches.”
Thank goodness, this rant was only a silent thought bubble floating above my head. Otherwise, mall security might have gotten involved. I plucked my empty SeaSheer lipstick tube out of her hands and did my best nice-lady impression:
“Thanks, darling, but today’s not a good day. I’m in a rush, but I’ll be back.”
And then there’s my tea.
I have a tea that I love. It’s called Lipton’s Gentle Orange, and it’s delightful. It’s herbal, caffeine-free, and not expensive. I’ve been drinking it for years.
Lately, Lipton’s Gentle Orange has been very hard to find. Certain stores won’t stock it, while other stores had only one box, abandoned behind the more current flavors.
Of course, everyone suggested that I go online and just order the damn tea already, instead of chasing around town and complaining loudly. They were right. I found my tea on Lipton’s official website and ordered a case that contained twelve boxes of tea with twenty teabags per box. Score one for the pushy geeks who shop online.
Eight months later, I went back to my favorite tea’s website to order more, but there was no more. Lipton had discontinued Gentle Orange. They make something called raspberry-mango-butterfly-chamomile-lemon-flavored tea. They offer a tangerine-mango-rosehip-beeswax-zinger-flavored tea. They boast about their most popular orange-mango-passionfruit-jasmine-free-range-green-hay-flavored tea, but they have discontinued my Gentle Orange. I have vowed to forsake Lipton brand tea altogether. I have reached the end of my teabag string rope.~~
Thankfully, not every day threatens to be a shit-outta-luck day. Once in a very great while, I consciously notice the absence of heartache and crap. These are the moments in time where I stop and recognize that life has sent me an easy day.
EASY DAY PINK CLOUD #1
I was scheduled to fly from New York City, back home to Columbus, Ohio. Travel days carry a high risk of mayhem, but instead, this day contained a magical crazy-free journey.
On this day, my plane did NOT carry any children. Not a one. No one whimpered, screamed, or whined. No stinky overdue diapers wafted down the aisles. Also missing were adolescents with their annoying cell phones, yackety-yakking at offensive volumes and listening to headphones cranked so high you could play Name That Tune from across the aisle.
On this flight home, every passenger enjoyed the lovely quiet. We were just a bunch of exhausted, weary, hungover weekend travelers who all fell asleep at the same time and woke up just as we were preparing to land. The stewardess marveled at how no one had asked her for a beverage. For her, this was a career first. She called our plane “The Flying Nap.”
It is on days like this that I’m totally enamored with life. ~~
EASY DAY PINK CLOUD #6
One day in late winter, I ran inside a department store to wait out a pelting icy rain storm. Wet and aggravated, I turned to see a sale table full of winter sweaters. There, on top of a messy pile of cardigans and pullovers, I noticed the most magnificent taupe wool tunic, marked down to the equivalent of almost free. I bolted to the dressing room to try it on, whispering tiny prayers that the sweater would look halfway decent on me since it would be a bargain at twice the marked-down price. Designed with a deep V neck, the sweater had sleeves that easily rolled up and stayed up, and the length in the back was perfect. From behind, it hid a myriad of sins. I looked smashing in it. But more importantly, I had stumbled upon the rarest of fashion items—a discounted, itch-free wool sweater.
When I got home, I discovered that my last-minute, discounted top looked both sporty with pants and elegant with skirts. This new purchase soon became my first choice, go-to garment, one that I continued to wear and adore for at least a decade. Life again, had sent me a nice day, complete with a nice bonus.~~
EASY DAY PINK CLOUD #36DD
While on tour, I noticed that a large-busted musician friend was wearing a sports bra, and she looked very . . . well, let’s just say, “put together” under her T-shirt. She had issues with large-sized synthetic and delicate foundations, and had decided to stick with sports bras. She went on and on about this sports bra’s comfort and durability, and I was sold.
Returning home after the tour, I immediately shifted my focus from the expensive department-store lingerie racks to Title Nine—my favorite catalog of women’s athletic clothing. There, among the pages of skinny, active women in running shoes and yoga pants, I found a plethora of bras. I ordered a few different styles and tried them on in the privacy of my bedroom. I easily chose the best one for me, and then ordered a ridiculous number of them. Some for now and, of course, many for later.
The catalog rated each bra by how well your “girls” stayed put, and my favorite had received the top award—five dumbbells, the best of the best. This bra guarantees that if I were shot out of a cannon, my breasts and I would painlessly arrive at our destination in precisely the proper order.
And now, I’m good to go. I’m also good to run, dance, bounce, and hopefully, shut up about my boobs already.~~
As a citizen of the planet, I am aware of how life throws real sorrow and serious heartbreak at frightening speeds. It’s during those moments you will find me, as a devoted family member, on the front lines with the best of them, ready to serve and shield my loved ones, body and soul, from all things dreadful. When I am needed, I am there in full frontal preparedness. And I will not be whining, pulling, or yanking at my clothing, because I will be dressed in seam- and tag-free underwear. Every day must start out as an easy day.
The rest of that day is not up to me.
Song: ONE EASY DAY
I wake up in the morning with a sleepy face
I gotta drag my butt to join the human race
First I’m gonna meditate—set my pace
Right into one easy day
I throw back the covers, my feet hit the floor
I sit for awhile until I’m sure
I’m ready for the craziness outside my door
I search for one easy day
One easy day, one easy day
How lovely it would be to live trouble-free
For one easy day
In my easy day, we’re all kind and patient
I keep my big mouth shut, no misbehaving
Everyone I meet, they’re also navigatin’
Toward one easy day
Then I make a phone call, and it goes right through
A human says “Hello, what can I do for you?”
I get to say my peace, that’s all I wanted to do
Oh, that’s one easy day
What if you had a day—no one got in your face
No one ticked you off to put you in your place
I think I’ll step aside and let the rats all race
And give them an easy day
What if we all woke up and there was no war
No more hungry children, suffering, poor
We can’t be the only ones asking for—
ONE EASY DAY!
THE MENTAL YENTL®
Songs and Stories from a Lifelong Student of Crazy.
“It’s been said I look like a woman, I've heard that from time to time,
It's quite a shock when they discover, I'm a nine year old with a credit line.”
When I turned 50, I stopped minimizing my talents and achievements, as well as my “isms” and demons. As I began to accept myself, AS IS, I also began to celebrate the vivid characters in my life, no matter how wild and quirky, manic and marvelous we might be.
This is our story.
MENTAL YENTL, STORIES FROM A LIFELONG STUDENT OF CRAZY
“I come from a long line….of medicated women”
... And so begins these 380 hilarious and heartwarming pages, as Sally documents and celebrates the insanity of the ordinary and the angst of the extraordinary.
From her early beginnings on Chicago’s Southside, to her years as a solo artist, and a founding and touring member of that marvelous musical comedy theatre troupe, THE FOUR BITCHIN’ BABES, Sally chronicles her comical, goof-and flaw-filled life—as a musician, mother, step mother, M&M-addicted mother of three, and care-giving-designated, daughter of a Jewish Manic Depressive mother (trifecta!)
Yet, with love and compassion, Sally honors those medicated Matriarchs, whose legacy included great boobs, big thighs, wack-a-doodle DNA, but most importantly, devotion and concern for family. This is their story.
You’ll find forty essays & stories, family (secret!) recipes, and thirty-three song lyrics, as each song lyric follows the story that motivated its’ creation.
Stories such as …
- “Greetings From the Land of Lime Jello and Really Bad Sanka”
- “What Married Women Want To Hear”
- “My Medicated Women”
- “J-Date and the Internet Dating Pool”
- “What’s Up With Jewish Composers and Christmas Hits?” & more, read samples.
Of course, Sally includes a few twisted family recipes like:
- “Bubbe Chicken your Grandmother Wishes She Could Make”
- “Naomi Garfinkel’s Mandel Bread, So Good You’ll Get Invited to Every Party, They’ll Want You Should Bring It.”
- “Naomi Garfinkel’s Sweet Dairy Kugle, So Good You’ll Get Invited to Every Party, They’ll Want You Should Bring It.”
REVIEWS FROM AMAZON:
thanks to this funny and authentic book
"You know that glow you feel after spending an afternoon chatting with a girlfriend over a cup of tea (or a glass of wine)? You've laughed out loud, you've discussed foibles and heartaches, you've bragged a little about your kids, compared notes on the state of your marriage? And you come away refreshed and somehow newly insightful about your life and your world - replenished and ready to begin anew? That's what reading the Mental Yentl gives you! Sally Fingerett has a gift for focusing on the details of her life and her experience and somehow transforming those experiences into a more universal view of the cycles of a woman's life - as a daughter, a mother, a wife, a worker, a friend. We should all be lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Fingerett. Wait...thanks to this funny and authentic book, we can! Lucky us!!" – Donna Verified Purchase
"Clever, funny, poignant, and well written. A very enjoyable journey. Highly recommend!" – PiCo Verified Purchase
"Great book! Sally has a wonderful way with words and attention to the hilarious, as well as the poignant, moments that our lives are so full of. One minute I was laughing and the next I was crying... it was like a good therapy session! A great book for the in between moments when you need a lift." – Joy Verified Purchase
Wanna laugh out loud and then cry and then laugh again!?
"As I read these stories, I cried and then laughed out loud, and cried again and laughed again. Ms. Fingerett has a way of creating images that drew me in and I became an observer standing the sidewalk watching Grandpa Sam, sitting at the Passover table and noticing the china, and sitting in the audience of a great musician, wanting her to be my friend. The matched songs on the CD have a wonderful spirit unto themselves. They create the colorful texture in-between the writings. This book is a great read in pieces or out of order or with the accompanying music -- It won't matter how or where you read it -- it WILL, however, matter if you don't." – rc Verified Purchase
The CDs (34 songs on 2 discs)
MENTAL YENTL, SONGS FROM A LIFELONG STUDENT OF CRAZY.
Show Vids and Pics
Take Erma Bombeck & David Sedaris, Joni Mitchell & Aretha Franklin, Jackie Mason & Billy Joel, toss them into a Nutri-Bullit, microwave on high to realign the molecular structure, sprinkle in a curious notion of the world and its craziness, add a fixed Jewish nose, throw in a guitar and piano, and you’ve got one Mental Yentl®!
Whether it's a full blown concert of songs and stories, or an evening of readings and discussions, Sally celebrates the humorous wackadoodle in our daily lives.
Some of the following videos are live performances from Sally's Mental Yentl Show, and live Four Bitchin' Babe shows. Then there are the Deirdre Flint Babe produced videos of Sally songs, (Boy on Wheels, Chocolate, The Dreidel Do Over) and the hysterical very true to life animated peek at "Babes backstage!"
I Am Now That Woman
The Dreidel Do Over Cartoon
Faces On My Wall
Jewish Kid Born on Christmas Day Talking Blues
Home Is Where the Heart Is
The Dreidel Do Over
Don't Mess with Me, I'm Sombody's Mother
Boy On Wheels
These Are The Things
Four Bitchin' Babes Backstage
The Long Lonesome Road
Sally Fingerett is a contemporary, award-winning songwriter and performer, author, textile artist, and a founding member of the musical comedy group, The Four Bitchin’ Babes. She has released 6 solo recordings, 9 Four Bitchin’ Babes cast recordings, and has participated and contributed songs to over 15 compilation recording projects, both commercial and benefiting various philanthropic organizations. She’s composed music and lyrics for the theatre, television and film. She taken her talents to more than 800 stages around the country.
As a 1990 Kerrville, TX New Folk Award Winner for songwriting, Sally’s composition “Home Is Where the Heart Is” has been recorded by folk legends, Peter, Paul, and Mary for their 1995 LifeLines CD/PBS special, and published in “Contemporary Cabaret,” a songbook that includes Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Weber. She has appeared in Putamayo’s Songwriter Festival at NY’s Carnegie Hall, and was a featured musical guest on Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know, NPR’s Mountain Stage, and CBS Sunday Morning. Singing for radio and TV, Sally has been the voice for Butterfinger, Hallmark, Sears, and A Star for Jeremy NBC. As an actress, she’s performed with the National Touring Company of the Vagina Monologues.
Recording as a solo singer/songwriter, Sally’s projects include Enclosed (1983), Unraveled (1991), Ghost Town Girl (1993), My Good Company (1998), and A Woman’s Gotta Do Her Thing (2004) and her latest, anthology double disc CD The Mental Yentl, Songs From a Lifelong Student of Crazy. (2015) In addition to the stellar cast of Nashville musicians, these projects include Sally’s duets with good friends Janis Ian (Little Girl Please Wait) and Jonathan Edwards (Ten Pound Bass), as well as the song co-written with folk-hero Tom Paxton (Private Plenty)
As a founding member of the hit comedy musical theatre company The Four Bitchin' Babes, in 1990, Sally has spent her career dedicated to the Babes shows, focusing on their nine cast recordings and full length concert DVD, as well as touring the US with four different musical revues. Hormonal Imbalance (2006), Diva Nation (2009), Mid Life Vices (2012), Jingle Babes, and their sequel, Hormonal Imbalance V2.5 celebrating over 30 years on the road.
Amidst all this, in 1994, Sally’s career took a temporary detour when she suffered viral induced paralyzed vocal cords. For the one year that followed, she discovered new ways to create words and music for new mediums. She began composing for original stage works, and writing short stories and essays for print publications. Twelve harrowing months later, her voice returned. After completing vocal rehab at the famed Vanderbilt Voice Clinic, Sally jumped right back into the creative fray. She was commissioned to compose for Hersteria . . . A Musical Noir for the Winnipeg Studio Theatre. Her prose has been published in Random House’s Life’s a Stitch (with Molly Ivins, Erma Bombeck and Gloria Steinem) and Publishing Syndicates’ Not Your Mother’s Book – On Home Improvement (with Chicken Soup for the Soul writers).
Personally, Sally identifies as a cultural Jewish woman, and her writing reflects her life and it’s conflicts of being a wackadoodle artist, while navigating her ways, as a devoted wife-mother-Sandwich Generation care giver. Sally found herself working in the Jewish Theatrical world, with her one-woman show The Mental Yentl Revue,which debuted at “Oy!Hoo,” The New York Jewish and Music Heritage Festival. Realizing her authentic self as a performer, Sally produced the Mental Yentl Radio Hour, for XM/Sirius’ Radio Hanukah. Just as Sally found herself at the head of her family’s table, she released her long awaited book of loving and humorous stories and essays, The Mental Yentl, Stories from a Lifelong Student of Crazy.The accompanying Mental Yentl CD Songs from a Lifelong Student of Crazy serves as the soundtrack to the stories. Sally thrilled at spending the first year of her book's publication, touring Synagogues and JCC Book Fairs, as an "Evening with Authors" touring author with the National Jewish Book Council.
Enter Covid-19. Sally’s lifelong hobby of working with textiles now has time to flourish. From window treatments, to quilts, to instrument cases, baby clothes, stage clothes, and purses, Sally is channeling her grandmother Anna Fingerett, whose first job “off the boat in 1915” was as a seamstress at Hart, Schaeffner and Marx. From Grandma Anna’s Singer treadle sewing machine to Sally’s fancy schmancy semi industrial digital Juki machine, the Fingerett family DNA comes full circle. Unlike the intellectual property of composing and writing, Sally thrills at the physical properties, where form meets function and has taken to creating and selling wearable art.
To live is to change. Currently, Sally and husband Michael live in Columbus, Ohio, where they have successfully launched their three kids, Elizabeth Julian, Max and Aaron. Sally and Michael are enjoying Grandparenting!
“Most impressive - a thoughtful, tuneful collection of keenly observed narratives.” – THE WASHINGTON POST
“Thank you dear heart, your songs are beautiful. As for (the song) The Redman, I have received many awards in my life time, but I cannot remember anything that has ever touched my emotions with such heartfelt warmth.” – RED SKELTON
“A wrenchingly vivid knack for contemporary ballads.” – THE BOSTON GLOBE
“One of the best lyricists on the singer/songwriter circuit” – THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Press Reviews & Quotes
“Sally Fingerett gives ample proof why she won the KERRVILLE award for songwriting...one of he best lyricists on the singer/songwriter circuit.” – THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“A wrenchingly viviD knack for contemporary ballads” – THE BOSTON GLOBE
“Informed by both folk and pop sensibilities, My Good Company is brimming with good songs well sun. Remarkably consistent is the quality of the songwriting, an unwavering level of craft...” – THE WASHINGTON POST
“What is Sally Fingerett about? Intelligent, lyrical songs, nimble fingered guitar and piano stylings and a lilting voice that skips down the path of lovely melodies. Fingerett is surely one artist we'll be hearing more about in coming years.” – PERFORMING SONGWRITER
“Enclosed is a fine debut album. Take a risk she's worth it.” – PLAYBOY MAGAZINE
“Graceful, witty, elegant, charming. All the things you want in a lunch companion, Sally has managed to capture on this (My Good Company) CD.” – JANIS IAN
“Thank you dear heart, your songs are beautiful. As for (the song) THE RED MAN, I have received many awards in my lifetime, but I cannot remember anything that has ever touched my emotions with such heartfelt warmth.’ – RED SKELTON
“A meditation on life with all it's sorrow, contradictions, small joys, and moments of wonderment. Her voice and her compelling lyrics are rightly the focus of these ten tunes.” – THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
“A brassy disposition, and the pipes to make you believe it!” – THE CHICAGO READER"Sally Fingerett’s presentation was one of the highlights of the First Annual Collier County Jewish Book Festival. Sally is a funny, engaging and passionate speaker – and singer! How many authors bring a guitar and voice to match to their book presentations! Sally was so much fun to work with, easy-going, flexible, creative and a great partner. The audience loved her! Yours will too!" - JEWISH FEDERATION OF COLLIER COUNTY
“My daughter is a brilliant talent, but would it kill her to cut those bangs.” – NAOMI GARFINKEL FINGERETT
Review from Sing Out! Winter 1999
Sally Fingerett sings with one of those voices that just wraps itself around you like a warm fur. Her voice resonates with body and style.
Her recordings arrive as highly finished products carefully and completely produced. No exception, this new release shows off Fingerett's progression as an artist, especially in musical sophistication.
Don't confuse her with a folkie, Fingerett is a polished pop artist in the singer-songwriter realm. She co-produced this release with ex-husband Dan Green, who continues to show a solid feeling for her work.
She wrote the baker's dozen songs, including one, "Private Plenty," a superb co-write with Tom Paxton. In addition to ample percussion, drums, bass and electronic effects from Nashville musicians, she has a near orchestra of Columbus, Ohio session players, as well as guest vocals from Janis Ian and Jonathan Edwards.
The piano, as played by Fingerett, remains the dominant instrument on the disc, and seems coupled with the most haunting songs, such as "I Danced With A Man."
One of Sally's attributes is her sense of humor, and "Ten Pound Bass" punctures the overall serious nature of the recording. In the song, a man agonizes between the perfect woman and the fish he hopes to catch.
"My Friend Elaine" memorably tells of a vagabond friend, and how her life compares to Fingerett's more centered life. "Thirsty Woman" describes a desert known as marriage. "Little Girl, Please Wait" laments the all-too-rapid maturing of one's child. Fingerett includes at least one song here that will strike a nerve with every listener. If for some reason a song doesn't grab you, her rich voice will.
- R Warren.
Sally Fingerett "My Good Company" Shanachie Records
It’s been six years since Sally Fingerett’s last solo release. In the interim she caught a virus that paralyzed her vocal cords for a year and threatened to abruptly end her career as a performer. Happily, Fingerett was able to sing again, but even if that were the case one suspects her talent as a songwriter would keep her and her fans happily occupied.
Informed by both folk and pop sensibilities," My Good Company” is brimming with good songs and well sung. Fingerett’s perspective as a songwriter often shifts, from say, that of a troubled child (Silent, Silent) to that of concern parent (Little Girl, Please Wait) and the tone of her songs vary as well, gracefully adjusting to the pulse of poignant romances (I Danced With A Man), withered marriages (Thirsty Woman) and undying pleasures (Boys on Wheels). Remarkably consistent is the quality of the songwriting an unwavering level of craft that sustains interest even when Fingerett is wearing her heart proudly pinned to her sleeve.
She has more than a few friends to help her out here, including Janis Ian, Jonathan Edwards and Tom Paxton. But mostly it's Fingerett’s strength as a writer that accounts for the album's considerable charm, compassion and character.
Sally Fingerett One bitchin' babe with a life of her own
by Stephen Ide
Sally Fingerett has big hair and bangs, dislikes her thighs, believes she was a nomad in another life and loves writing songs.
"I also feel more comfortable in my skin than I did when I was younger," said Fingerett, who turned 39 on Christmas Day. "But, thank God, that's what comes with the territory... I'd give anything to lose the thighs, but in lieu of that, it doesn't stop me from putting on jeans." The Ohio-based singer-songwriter, part of the singing troupe the Four Bitchin' Babes, is also feeling more comfortable after rebounding from a bout of vocal chord paralysis, a condition that leaves many of those it touches virtually voiceless. The so-called "idiopathic nerve paralysis" began with tracheal bronchitis in February. Fingerett's voice didn't return until July. "It was just one of those fluky, unlucky, no-one-could-explain-it, no one-knew-what things. I was out of work for four or five months, and now I'm back," she said. "They thought it was cancer. They thought it was MS (multiple sclerosis). I had all the CAT scans... They said there's a 50-50 chance it will come back. It's either nerve damage or just nerve paralysis based on a virus. And I sat it out and waited."
As she waited, she still performed with the Babes, though she had to cancel solo shows. Members Megon McDonough, Christine Lavin and guests Patty Larkin, Mary Travers and others sang her songs. Fingerett played guitar and piano.
"The Babes were just fabulous during this time. Chris had broken her finger, and I played all her songs while she sang, and then I played and then she sang my songs. We were the cripple chicks," Fingerett said. "And, please, if you print that, make sure everyone knows I say that lovingly and with big heart."
Fingerett recalled one performance in which Cheryl Wheeler filled in. Wheeler declined to be paid for her work. "She wouldn't take a dime. And so I sent her dog a box of dog toys... If you're not going to show your affection to someone, you show your affection to their children. She has no children; she has like three dogs or something. So I sent her dogs all kinds of presents. I'll show her. I'll love her no matter what she thinks."
After much therapy and care, Fingerett is again singing, though she doesn't expect to be in full voice until September. "It was scary and it was awful, but it's over and I'm not looking back. And all my friends were just wonderful."
Despite her setback, Fingerett displays the same kind of fortitude that has kept her career strong. Married, with a daughter (who's now 8), Fingerett is as busy as ever. "There's no reason (to slow down)," she said. "When the roots of the tree are strong, the limbs of the tree nourish. And if I am, as a mom, satisfied with my life's work, my daughter's going to be the beneficiary of that."
Fingerett says she gains strength from watching her daughter, Elizabeth Julian, grow. "She's the light of my life," she said. "She's the window that I see life through. My childhood was conflicted. It was the '50s. It was different. I'm having the childhood that anybody would want with my kid."
"Home Is Where the Heart Is" (being recorded now by Peter, Paul & Mary and sung by other groups) from her 1991 album Unraveled, and "When I Wake Up From This Night" and "Mama Ghetto Rose" from her latest album, Ghost Town Girl were envisioned through the eyes of a child, she says.
Fingerett has always carried a certain strength to her writing. She sings about relationships and vignettes of everyday life, with a voice that moves from delicate whispers to deliberate passion. Though many know her engaging, accepting look at lifestyles in "Home Is Where the Heart Is" (which she sings at every performance), Fingerett's thoughtful, enriching ballads and topical songs place her among today's most important contemporary folk singers.
But Fingerett, who's sung kids' voices in jingles for White Castle and Wendy's, and others for Sears and Hallmark, doesn't take all the credit for her career's successes. New York singer-songwriter Christine Lavin included Fingerett song "Wild Berries" on a 1990 compilation On A Winter's Night and later went on to bring Fingerett in with Patty Larkin and Megon McDonough as members of the Babes.
"Christine Lavin handed me a career on a silver platter," Fingerett said. "We've just become really good close women friends, contemporaries. She treats me like a peer, not an underling. She's offered to walk with me side by side... The Babes thing took on a life of its own. If I had said to myself, 'I want this and this and this to happen,' I could never have choreographed my career the way it's happened. It just happened. And that's the beauty of it. I had no expectations and I've been nothing but pleased and honored during this whole thing."
The Babes have been pursuing individual careers, though recently have begun negotiating a recording contract with Shanachie Records, Fingerett said. Fingerett is planning a fourth solo album, which she hopes to release by December or January. While her voice was out of commission, she says, she had contacted Lavin, McDonough, Larkin, Cliff Eberhardt, The Story (Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball), Pierce Pettis, Jonathan Edwards, Janis Ian, Cheryl Wheeler and others. "I was going to do a record of all my own songs and call it One Heart Many Voices: The Lemonade Project. As in, when God gives you a lemon, you make lemonade. And they were all going to sing on the record. I would just be the player and the writer, and it would be on our label (Amerisound)... I'm so glad to not have to do it. It would be a lot of fun, but I really want to do my own thing." Now she hopes she can get many of those artists to perform backup on her next project.
Through the months when she had no voice, Fingerett says she also did not write any songs, a process that she finds therapeutic. "Writing is kind of like cleaning the house," says Fingerett. "Once you start, oh, I just can't stop... Once you jump into a creative process, I find myself caught up in it. I love it. I've always enjoyed the writing. It's funny because when I was a kid, a little kid, I was like this pathological liar. I'd just like, lie. And now I think, I'm a writer. When I was a kid I'd make up stories and they were true, and now I realize that make-believe is very important to me."
Some of her writing is spontaneous. Such was the case with "10-Pound Bass," a song about a man who'd rather catch a fish than a woman. She wrote it while in the middle of writing another song. "Men get a charge out of it because it's a very loving song to men who just love to fish," she said. "My husband watches those bass shows on TNN. It's like watching golf, you know, I don't get it."
Fingerett, who's performed at clubs and colleges since the late '70s, says she hopes her audiences come away from her music with a fresh look at issues and at themselves. "Folk music has always been about politics; it's always been about self, personal rights," she said. "And because our issues have changed, we can march on this and we can march on that, but until we get it straight in our own back yard, we can't go much further."
Her song, "Save Me a Seat," for example, written for a friend who died of cancer, sends the message that it's OK to let suffering people know you support their decisions. She sings: "They don't laugh at white girls who love their r&b when you're homeward bound." "In other words," she explains, "you go where it's going to be OK with whatever your choices are, and just save me a seat. I'll be there someday, and I'll see you there. That song has made a lot of people who have lost close loved ones to AIDS and cancer, it's made them realize that we have a responsibility to those people to let them off the hook, because they take that sorrow with them, and they don't have to," she said.
Fingerett doesn't like to hawk her politics, however, though topics about abusive spouses or environmental issues creep into her repertoire. "I'm a woman with a job and a family, and anything that has to do with that will be my issues. If it means singing about dishes, or singing about being too tired to have sex, those are my issues," she said. "I'm an advocate for just letting everybody off the hook. Tomorrow's another day."
What does she like about performing and being out on the road? "I like getting dressed up and eating out. I like that part a lot. I am a gypsy. No doubt about it, in a former life, I was a nomad, because I do love it. I could do without having to hold my stomach in and looking thin under lights... I don't have the need to be a big star. I just like making a living doing what I enjoy, and I've always done music. It's just what I do."
Meanwhile, Fingerett stresses that she wants people to know that she has recovered from her vocal paralysis and is doing just fine. "The hardest part of this whole thing was I couldn't go out in public because I couldn't hear me over white noise. I couldn't stand up and talk because air flew out of me without vocal chords to stop the air. When you'd go to vocalize, air would fly out and I'd pass out because I'd lose all my oxygen. So it was pretty ugly for a while. But so many people were so worried, and there was nothing they could do. And that was the worst part. I couldn't stand seeing all their concern and their heartache. I knew I'd be fine. It wasn't cancer. I wasn't going to die. I could still read my kid a story as long as she was quiet, but so many people heard about it and so many people are worried, I can't take that they’re uncomfortable or worried about me."