45: “Ask Me What You Want” b/w “I Just Can’t Stand It’ by Millie Jackson. Polydor 2066 187. German re-release. Recorded in New York City in 1972.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Millie Jackson was born in Thomson, Georgia in 1944. Her mother died when Millie was very young, and her father started over in Newark, New Jersey. By her mid-teens, Millie was living with an aunt in Brooklyn. Her singing career started when she was twenty years old; some friends dared Millie to enter a talent contest in a Harlem nightclub, and she won. Club dates followed, and by 1971, Millie had a hit on the R&B charts with her first single, “A Child of God (Hard to Believe).”

Powerful stuff, very critical of people and the doubt in the almighty that they inspire. But this was kind of a misleading start to Millie’s career.

1972’s “Ask Me What You Want” is a little closer to what she’s known for—straight talk between lovers, open communication for the betterment of the couple. But we aren’t quite there yet.

1974’s “I Got to Try It One Time” is where Millie hits her stride and we see what she’s really all about: open communication between lovers about female desire for the betterment of the couple, sure, but mainly for the betterment of Millie’s own bad self. Especially when the object of her desire is driving her to distraction.

I have to try it one time

After that I hope I can turn it loose.

But if I don’t try it one time

I ain’t gonna be no use.

“Ask Me what You Want” was co-written by Millie, but she had a way with covers, too. She did some great versions of songs by Kenny Loggins and Toto. Check out this soulful rendition of Merle Haggard’s “If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday.”

This live version of 1974’s “My Man, A Sweet Man” starts off upbeat. But by the end of the song, the cheerleading gives way to boredom, showing just how much stock she puts in a man who is kind and sweet but dull.

That same 1982 concert gives us “Slow Tongue.” Damn right, this is NSFW. If your boss hears it, don’t say you weren’t warned. On the other hand, if you’re at home with that special someone, turn it up. Notions will be had.

Millie hasn’t recorded any work since 2001, but apparently she still performs today. Her work might be a little too raunchy for some folks, but you have to respect a woman who was tender and raw long before the current crop of pop and R&B singers tried to strike the same balance. And if you can’t respect that, Millie only has this to say:

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