Performance poet Pamela Sneed and I are developing a stage piece and film around her genre-busting meditation on the life and influence of Willie ‘Big Mama’ Thornton, one of the great unsung originators of Rock & Roll. Black, female and queer, Thornton was the writer of ‘Ball and Chain’ (a massive hit for Janis Joplin) and the first to record ‘Hound Dog,’ which launched the career of Elvis Presley. Though she performed throughout her short life, she never received the recognition she was due as an innovator of rhythm, vocalizing, melody–and iconography. The Unlit Path is part poetic deconstruction, part musical performance exploring the inedible influence an artist can have over kindred spirits in the future, despite years of marginalization and struggle.
Pamela’s latest collection Funeral Diva is out now from City Lights Books.