INTERVIEW: Live and Uncensored with Millie Jackson
by Keya Maeesha
She is the original “Ms. Jackson” (if you are nasty, of course). Known for her raw sense of humor and even more crass personality, Millie Jackson is an icon in the R&B genre. Not afraid to speak or her mind or tell it like it is, Ms. Jackson continues to set strides for women everywhere. With hit songs such as “A Child Of God” and “All The Way Lover”, Ms. Jackson is on a mini tour across the States, reminding folks why she is still “Feelin’ Bitchy”. Couch Sessions received a tremendous opportunity to sit with the Ms. Jackson and discuss everything with her from music, publishing, tour, and where she is now. Check it out!
Couch Sessions: It is such a pleasure to actually talk to you. First and foremost, Happy Belated Birthday!! How do you feel to be another year and still feel younger than everyone else in the world?
Millie Jackson: Thank you! I don’t know if I feel like I’m younger than everyone else in the world. In fact, I feel like I’m the only one left! LOL! I’m serious! People keep calling me trying to book me for dates and I have nobody to go with me. I guess I’ll have to go by myself and put on a one woman show. Everyone who I used to go with is gone! I guess I’m going to have to start rapping. Ask Lil’ Kim if she can use me. LOL!
CS: You are actually about to go on tour. You have two shows this week:- one in Washington, D.C. and the other in New York City. How does that feel?
MJ: See…it will be different. Going back to New York will be going back to my old stomping grounds. Folks I haven’t seen in years called me and said “Hey! We’ll see you at the show!”. I’ve never performed at the Howard Theatre when I went to D.C. But I have so many people I used to work with there. Bill Washington used to bring me in all the time. I have two trumpet players that have been with me since 1979 that will be at the D.C. show. I even got a call from a sound man that I worked with almost 20 years ago say he’s going to come. They are all going to come and see me. It should old home week.
CS: You’ve been busy. You’ve been doing this for years. Your first album came out in 1972, but you had a single before you released that album.
MJ: The company that I was working with wanted to manage me. I wasn’t about that. They were working with another girl and I didn’t like what they were doing with her. I almost had to burn down the office to get my contract back. It took another 2 years for me to get another contract, without having to burn down the office of course!
CS: So when you released “A Child Of God” when you were with your second label, what do you think your grandfather’s reaction would have been? He was a preacher, right?
MJ: My grandfather was dead before I started singing. He’s probably spinning in glory right now. He ain’t stop spinning yet.
CS: Now one of the biggest controversies around that song was that when you went to go and do a show for NBC, the network wouldn’t allow you to do it. They said you couldn’t say “God” on TV.
MJ: Right! You couldn’t say “God” on TV then because you had so many different religions. They would get upset if you said “God”. I thought it was very hyprocitical that NBC wouldn’t allow me to sing that song and say the word “God”.
CS: It was. I don’t see anything wrong with mentioning the name “God”, even with different religions. People have their own definition of God, but it wasn’t like you were pinpointing it to any one faith.
MJ: Right! Buddha is God to somebody ain’t he?
CS: Now, they have different titles that they give to people who have made a mark for their music. Do you have one?
MJ: The Europeans call me the Queen of Raunch. LOL!
CS: Do you feel like you have created that entire genre and made it comfortable for people to even talk about things like oral sex and getting pleasure?
MJ: You evidently must have missed my song where I said “He MUST have Millie on his breath” *whistles*
CS: OMG. I love you.
MJ: I’ll be nice. I won’t behave, but I’ll be nice. [Laughs].
CS: LOL! Well do you feel that you are responsible for that movement?
MJ: I hope I didn’t. You know you listen to it now and I just…*sigh* When I did it, it was mostly tongue and cheek. Now, they are serious! You listen to the music and they are like “Yo..we gon do this“, and I’m like “No..we not!” LOL. Due to the fact that I got away with it might have paved a way for some of the BS that is coming out now. But it was a joke to me. I was serious but I wasn’t serious. It isn’t the same as it was before. Like when I created the symphony. At that point, I had said everything that could have been said on the radio except for the F word.
CS: Why, even thought it was a joke for you, do you feel it was important to relay those particular messages like you did in “All The Way Lover”?
MJ: I talk about whatever I sing about. I heard the song, I didn’t write the song. So when I heard it, and I’m supposed to rap in this song, I’m saying to myself “Well what am I going to rap about?” LOL. The song isn’t called “Up and Down Lover”. It is called “ALL The way Lover”. There is a clean version. The song doesn’t get terrible until I start talking . LOL.
CS: Has anybody ever talked to you about teaching classes?
MJ: They are afraid to let me in their schools.[laughs] In fact, there was a college down in North Carolina. The lady booked me to do a concert, and before the show, I was to do a Q&A with the students. The staff of the school didn’t want me to be there, but it was too late because the deposit was already spent. The lady who booked the show told them that I do, at the time, a daily radio show and if I hadn’t been kicked off the air yet, then the students will be fine. The staff still didn’t believe I could do it. I had no idea what I was going to say to the children. So I just went up to the mic and said “Okay, I’m here. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to ya’ll. Does anyone have any questions?” And when we got to the song “A Child Of God” that Young Jeezy sampled, the talk took off. I was supposed to do 15 minutes and I ended up being there for 2 hours. And anytime the students asked me a question that was over the top, I’d say to them “Its hard to believe that you are a Child of God” really fast and they would fall out laughing. I’m always talking to young folks, especially those coming up in the music industry. I usually end up talking about publishing because a lot of the rights for songs and albums are owned by the record companies. I own my own publishing. I put out my songs.
CS: I think there are a lot of people who don’t understand the business of music.
MJ: They don’t. They get so caught up in the glitz and glamour and what they put in your face. You get caught up in the drugs. I never did drugs. I’m a logical person. If it doesn’t make sense to me, then I don’t do it. That happened to a lot of people before me. I remember meeting Ray Charles and thinking to myself “How does a blind man shoot up?” Someone had to find the vein. They talk about the rappers. I’m against the rap songs that beat up on folks, but I respect the rap community. I respect the Jay-Zs and the Diddys because they are doing things that other folks aren’t thinking about doing. Get yourself a hit record and put out a clothing line. However, we got a few folks out now in R&B that aren’t even singing or screaming. If it wasn’t for these producers, some of these folks wouldn’t make it. Some of them go on tour and don’t even know their own song and it pisses me off. I can name five artists that have hit songs out right now and can’t tell you which one is which one because they all sound the same.
CS: How did you even start “rapping”?
MJ: I learned to attack them before they attack you. So when I would sing and if I noticed someone wasn’t paying attention, I’d yell out “Hey! You already paid your money. So you gon listen to this song or take yo ass outside and finish talking to whomever you talking to?” And the crowd would love it. So I started using it more and more.
CS: And you didn’t even aspire to sing really. You started off a bet.
MJ: Yep. Won my bet and then go hired by someone who was there having dinner. LOL. I don’t pursue a lot of different things, but when opportunity knocks, I just want to be there to open the door. I paid $129 for some hair for my first performance. I was shy when I walked up in there for performance. I still have the picture of me in the hair from 1964. LOL.
CS: Now one of my favorite records from you is Caught Up. I never understood until I got older what the album was about as opposed to when I first heard it in my uncle’s record collection. For you to present both sides, one from the other woman and the other side was the wife, was so creative of you.
MJ: The deejays hated it. That and every album past Feelin’ Bitchy. They didn’t know when the songs would end because they would just flow right into each other. They hated playing my records. The songs would segway into another song that had one of those three or four letter words that you really couldn’t play on the air. [laughs]. There was no fade going into the next song. Hated it.
CS: The deejays might of hated it, but the people loved it.
MJ: Of course. The record company had the album for almost three or four months and they didn’t know what to do with it. When it was finally released and played on the air, people picketed the radio station. I remember I did an interview and the white lady asked me what people were so upset about. So I told her in the song that I said I was waiting for my man to come home and give me a piece and I am not washing no man’s funky draws. She said “Oh, we can play that”. Now, I forgot what I actually said. I didn’t say “I’m waiting on my man to come and give me a piece.” I said “I”m waiting on my n&%$a to come and give me a piece“. That lady nearly fell out of her seat trying to get the record off and give it back to me. She turned a lighter shade of pale. She wanted to kill me. I thought I said “my man“. I didn’t even dawn on me that I said “my n&%$a“. LOL.
CS: How does preparation for your shows happen?
MJ: My band pretty much never knows how the show is going to flow. They just know me well enough that I can say one word and they know what to play next. But I don’t ever have a set list. I just go with how I feel.
CS: So you never have a set list? Wow. That makes the show really organic. Not a lot of people can really say that.
MJ: I try and cover most of the songs that people want to hear. Except for “My Man Is A Sweet Man”. I’m not singing that crap. Sweet man, kind man, my man, who gives a f&*%. [Laughs].
CS: So you have your own company now, Weird Wreckuds. I actually visited the site and loved the fact that “Butt-A-Cize” is the theme.
MJ: When I designed the site, I wanted the graphics to show what a woman has to do to get her records played. That’s why I have my records in my hand, I have wings, my converses on, I’m hooked up to a tow trunk because I have a flat tire and broken wing. I even have a band aid on the wing. But I’m still running. I’m just trying to get some air play. I’m trying LOL.
CS: Are you coming out with anything else?
MJ: Yes. As soon as they kill off all the bootleggers. LOL. When “Butt-A-Cize” was recorded, folks were already putting my single pressed up on a compilation album. This was before my album even came out! So I spend all my money to make an album, and someone else can just take my song and put it on a CD and I get nothing. I want to see the receipts! LOL.
CS: I’m selfish. I want more music from you.
MJ: Well then just come and see me in person. LOL. I’m putting together a show called “That Other Jackson”. I’m the Jackson that you know other Jacksons don’t want to know or want to be related to. I did 5 or 6 skits and did I live performance to preview the skits. I got almost everybody who is a Jackson to say something about me. Its going to be good. I got Joe Jackson and even Tito Jackson. I even got Tito to sing “Blame it on the sunshine, blame it on the moonlight, but don’t blame it on my daddy” LOL. I got Samuel L. Jackson. Damn I’m glad I brought this up. Congressman Jesse Jackson agreed to do it. He is going to look into the camera say “Millie Jackson? That should be a law”. I spent a lot of money doing this. If they aren’t going to pay me my money and put it on a TV show, I’ll just put it on a DVD somewhere and go about my business. PAY ME MY MONEY! LOL.
CS: Are you still doing your radio show?
MJ: Nope. Not anymore. I quit in January. If folks want to hear me, they have to come see perform. LOL.
CS: What the…WHAT? Why did you quit?
MJ: Because they asked me for another cut in pay.
CS: Oh. Welp!
MJ: Exactly! LOL. At least I’m going to be a part of two movies. I’m not going to speak on it until I get a contract. And it is the good parts, the writing and such.
CS: Oh that is different. Is this something that has always been a passion of yours?
MJ: Nah. It just fell into my lap. I told you, I don’t go chasing stuff. I wait for the opportunity to knock and I’m just there to open the door. “Hello, who dat??! Opportunity? Oh yea! I’m here!” LOL!
CS: LOL. Well thank you so much for the opportunity to just sit and chat with you. You are such an amazing person and I appreciate you taking the time to sit with me.
MJ: Well, it was good to talk to you too! I BETTER see you at my show!
It is plain to see that Millie Jackson has not lost her step. As a matter of fact, one can argue that she continues to create new ones. She is an entrepreneur, mother, singer, actress, and just plain everything. What you see is what you get, and with her, that ain’t so much a bad thing.