The 2023 A-to-Z blogging challenge theme is resilience. Resilience is the ability to get back on our feet and keep going after life knocks us down and kicks sand in our faces. Resilience is how the psyche survives and copes, but resilience doesn’t necessarily wear a cape of positivity.
The 26 songs I’ve chosen show us, musically, what resilience looks (sounds?) like. I’ll offer a reflection of the resilience in each song. The songs are alphabetical by the artist’s first name or the group’s name, except for M, O, U, and X.
M is for Reba McEntire and Fancy.
Reba McEntire’s cover of Fancy, which was written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry (1969), does justice to Bobbie’s original song. In reading a little background, I discovered the song falls into a genre called Southern Gothic.
Fancy has been criticized for 1) the moral and ethical aspects of a mother sending her 18-year-old daughter away and into a life of prostitution; 2) the mother spending the family’s last money on a red dancing dress, when she could have purchased food or medical help; 3) an 18-year-old girl should get a job and help out.
Now in this world, there’s a lot of self-righteous hypocrites
That’d call me bad
And criticize mama for turning me out
No matter how little we had
The short answer to these criticisms are two words: Generational Poverty
This song is Fancy’s story of rags-to-riches, of fighting her way out of generational poverty, and of walking through hell until she reached the other side still intact physically, emotionally, psychologically, and strong as steel. This is a song of resilience in mind, body, and spirit with rock solid determination to change her ‘stars’, aka, rise above the abject poverty into which she was born.
I knew what I had to do and I made myself this solemn vow
That I’s gonna be a lady someday
Though I don’t know when or how
But I couldn’t see spending the rest of my life
With my head hung down in shame
You know I might have been born just plain white trash
But Fancy was my name
Fancy took the lemons life handed her and didn’t just make lemonade, she made margaritas, lemon cheesecake, and lemon meringue pie. 🙂 Resilience isn’t always pretty. This is one of those times. Fancy figured out that being nice to gentlemen really did mean they’d be nice to her. She used her natural-born attributes to accomplish her rise out of poverty.
I charmed a king, a congressman
And an occasional aristocrat
And then I got me a Georgia mansion
And an elegant New York townhouse flat
And I ain’t done bad…
The mother, by doing everything she could to set her daughter on the road out of poverty, might have been keeping true to her conscience (the inscription in the locket). The mother compromised however long she had left (I’m real sick), which was a situation compounded by the father deserting the family (the only means of monetary support). The mother also knew the baby would be taken by ‘the welfare people’, even if Fancy stayed, but maybe that was all right in her desperate mind. The baby would have a fighting chance at a better life.
Well, I can still hear the desperation
In my poor mama’s voice ringin’ in my ears
“Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me down
Lord, forgive me for what I do
But if you want out, well, it’s up to you
Now don’t let me down
Your mama’s gonna move you uptown.”
And I guess she did
From a resilience standpoint, my longer responses to the three criticisms I listed at the beginning are:
#1 and #2: The mother did the best she could for Fancy given the limited resources available to the family.
#3: Fancy likely didn’t have much of an education. She also lived on the outskirts of New Orleans, which could mean half a mile or ten miles, so walking to and from a job everyday might not have been feasible. Even if she could land a job, she referred to herself as poor white trash, which would likely have been the opinion of potential employers who would hesitate to hire anyone of her social class let alone hire a girl without employable skills.
Reading between the lines, I imagine the mother weighing two options for Fancy: a marriage of desperation to a no-account man like Fancy’s father, which meant Fancy would continue to live as she’d grown up…in destitution with no way out OR opportunity, which was prostitution where there was money to be had by men who had money to spend.
The mother’s last act of love was an act of sacrifice-resilience.
Fancy is a walking, talking example of a person’s resilience to survive society’s criticism, judgement, and ridicule for embracing her mother’s turning her out and into prostitution as a means of survival and, ultimately, a better life.
People do what they have to in order to survive.
To read about generational poverty, I recommend Ruby K. Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. (I receive nothing for recommending this book.)
*Woman wearing red dress image by Bruno Salvadori at Pexels
Until next time,
writing through history one romance upon a time
A compassionate and comprehensive analysis of the work.
Personally I think it’s real easy to judge folks when you have no clue where they come from. There are quite a few young women who were able to pay their way through college without student loan debt by working as escorts or maintaining N OnlyFans site. I don’t knock them. I do, however, want to say that many young women and girls are forced into prostitution and I find the men who take advantage of them repulsive.
Well said. I couldn’t agree more.
I just seem to be having issues with the videos 😕
Well, that’s frustrating. ☹️ I did an Internet search for possible reasons for this problem, and it appears YouTube blocks access to some videos by location. Reba McEntire has a music video for “Fancy” that is a mini-movie interpretation. Here is that link: https://youtu.be/zplc4Ienkws
I suspect that is the issue. Something to do with licensing 🙄