For years when I performed, I kept a small fish bowl on the stage (or area), and a notepad with a pen. If someone requested a song I didn't know, I'd have them write it on the pad, then put it in the bowl and promised to learn it, then perform it at the next show. One day back in 2016 someone requested a song I'd never heard by someone I'd never heard of. The song was "Blue Eyes Blind" by ZZ ward. I promised to sing it at my next show. (I've included a link to my music at the bottom of this article. Stage named Ronni Right).
I didn't get home until 3 am. There were only 4 songs in the jar. I'd heard all but one of them and was pretty sure I could nail them, but then I stood there for a minute looking at that other one. I sat down at my laptop and brought it up on Youtube. I was blown away.
I had to break my promise. I could not learn that one. Not well enough to do it justice, anyway. It was the only one anyone had requested that I couldn't get my head around. Thankfully, I was out of town when the request came, and no one ever asked me again.
I dove into her music to see what else she had and was up until dawn listening. As it turned out, I had heard her music before, I just didn't know it. She had a song out called "Til the Casket Drops", that premiered on season three of "Pretty Little Liars". I remember when I heard it back in 2012 when it first came out. I caught myself thinking, "Jesus this is good. I need to learn this one!" I never did. It was complicated and ZZ Ward has a bluesy quality to her voice that's difficult to master.
Her music reached me because to me, it was new, raw and full of a unique hip-hop/blues vibe. Her lyrics were so intense and easily identified with, that it was hard to stop listening.
Her songs spoke of the angst of loving someone, seeing them love someone else and being powerless to stop it. They spoke of love, of lust, of conquest and revenge. Song after song revealed life situations that resonated inside me, and feelings I'd always been afraid to express. She was able to, in just under four or five minutes, convey what pain there is in loving someone so much who's just bad for you and not being able to help it. I committed more of her songs to memory for a while than I did my own!
The following year she released the album "The Storm", which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Blues Albums Chart in July 2017. With songs like "Cannonball", "Bag of Bones", "If U Stayed", etc., I'm not surprised! When I came to "Ghost", I laughed out loud in the car by myself. She sang about being in a relationship with a cheater, and how she "took care of it". Good God how I would have loved to do that! This is the stanza that got me:
"Thirty days and nights stayed , I'd be staring at your phone, Lying to myself like it's okay you let me down , Used to be like us against the world, but baby, now , You and I, we're just six underground , Got me singing...
Don't tell me she didn't mean nothing (whoa) , Can't take back that bad you did to me (whoa) , Say goodbye, goodbye to everything (whoa) , We're ghosts, d-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo , We're ghosts, and I'm dancing on her grave."
From then on out for a couple years if I was doing housework, working out, etc., I had something by ZZ playing, but then, life happened.
My best friend died, my mother succumbed to dementia and my music producer passed away. I couldn't afford to produce my new album alone and it hit the back burner... quick. I had moved to a new town and I knew no one in the area to get my foot in the door, musically. So, I went to working a regular job and lost touch with music altogether.
Just when I didn't think things could get more dismal, Covid happened. Mom was in a nursing home on a feeding tube and I was in a day job I hated. Then one afternoon, riding down the road in 2021 I was listening to an Indie station and "The Dark" came on by ZZ Ward. I wasn't really listening at first but then it drew me in with the lyrics:
"Staring at this stucco ceiling , Wondering how to break it down , If it's falling, will I feel it? , If it doesn't, will I drown?
All my life, I've been running toward the fight , Oh lord, when I die , Make my life a lullaby , 'Til that long goodnight , Keep my fire burning like a star , I'm not afraid of the dark."
I remember pulling the car over and bawling my brains out. I had let the pitfalls in life steal my light. That song gave me courage again.
If ZZ Ward isn't the most famous singer in the world, it's probably because she didn't jump on the industry bandwagon and sell out to the music machine. I've never seen her showing off her body or shaking her half-naked rear-end for the camera. She's an accomplished pianist, plays guitar and harmonica and a few other instruments. She writes her own material and has been performing since she was 12.
She started out singing in her father's blues band and was greatly influenced by her brother's hip hop albums, which obviously contributed to her style. She has said that some of her earliest inspirations were Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Vera Ward Hall and Big Mama Thornton, and it shows. She's a vocal powerhouse with an old blues soul to her. If you haven't heard her work, I'd encourage you to look her up. You won't be disappointed. She's easily one of the few artists who has influenced my work and her music literally pulled me out of a deep depression.
She has a new album out this year called: "Dirty Shine". With songs like "Ride or Die" and "Baby Don't", it's bound to be a hit and I can't wait to see what happens next!
You can listen to my music by clicking here.
About the Creator
I'm a mild-mannered project accountant by day, a free-spirited writer, artist, singer/songwriter the rest of the time. Let's subscribe to each other! I'm excited to be in a community of writers and I'm looking forward to making friends!