The great, wonderful, amazing songwriter Rosalie Sorrels has died at the age of 83. I have been a huge fan for a long time. She was almost totally unknown except by other songwriters. She never made any money at all. But this was a remarkable woman living an really self-directed life. She grew up in the Mormon culture of Idaho, had an abortion as a teenager, was raped and gave up the child that led to for adoption. She married and then started learning to be a folk singer. She married and had 5 kids, left her husband and traveled the nation with kids in tow. She wrote great songs and produced excellent albums. Many of those albums are out of print. That’s especially true of her excellent work from the 70s. I would start by pointing you to her 1976 album Always a Lady. The first two songs alone, “Mehitabel’s Theme” which is this weird song about insects and then her spoken word introduction to the old folk song “Baby Rocking Medley,” which is about telling the baby you want to kill it while slowly rocking it to sleep. These are amazing songs and if anyone knows about the perils of motherhood, it was Rosalie Sorrels. She helped revive the career of Utah Phillips and she wrote a heartbreaking song about her son that committed suicide: “Hitchhiker in the Rain.” That was on her outstanding 1995 album Borderline Heart, which at least was released on CD, which Always a Lady never has been. Here’s a few of her tunes.
I saw Rosalie in about 2002 in Albuquerque. We were the youngest people there by about 20 years. It was great. She sang great songs, swore a lot which was awesome coming from a woman in her late 60s (or so it seemed at that time), told great stories. It was a special night from a special woman. I knew her health was in serious decline for at least a decade so I always felt glad that I managed to see her.
Not many of those old folkies left, which is the natural course of life, but sad nonetheless.