Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thanks, Dory Previn

When I was in college, in the rush of feminist consciousness, in 1974, in the year 11 women in Philadelphia smashed through the sound barrier of the Episcopal Church by getting ordained to the priesthood, Dory Previn released this song. I wrote for the student newspaper, and if you were lucky you were in the newsroom when the free albums came in the mail. I snatched this one. It became the anthem of our little group of chapel-goers, pushing boundaries on our own, sassy, slightly irreverent, or reverent toward things that really counted.

We'd memorize this song, belt it out, thrilled to shout the line, "save your breath" at all those men who didn't think women had a place, a voice, a role to play.

I read in her obituary in today's New York Times that Dory Previn had a particular kind of working-class Catholic girlhood, with a father suffering the effects of shell shock from the first World War. She had survived, and thrived, through public divorce, with a husband leaving her for a younger woman. She wrote this song, tucked in among the more popular and romantic, and for women in our 20s, trying to find our God-given place in a world that was shattering and being remade right before our eyes, Dory Previn gave our struggle a satisfying kick.

Thanks, Dory Previn.