The late Eartha Kitt’s strength, vulnerability, and sensuality inspired singer/songwriter René Marie’s 2014 Grammy-nominated album, I Wanna be Evil, With Love to Eartha Kitt. Marie knows firsthand the risks of setting a new course in life. When she was in her 40s, she quit her day job at a bank to devote herself to singing and composing fulltime. It was a decision that was not without repercussions. And about a year later, her marriage ended.
Early on, as her career was taking off, Marie remembers being in the audience at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City watching the late Eartha Kitt perform. A crazed fan rushed the stage. A moment of fear registered in the singer’s eyes. No harm was done. The man’s friends removed him from the stage and Marie recalls, "He was just overcome and couldn’t hold back any longer. He just had to demonstrate how he felt about her. We all understood that."
Now as a performer and songwriter, Marie knows the risks of striking an emotional chord – whether it’s enchantment or anger, sadness or love. René Marie has just recorded a new CD: The Sound of Red.
René Marie is performing songs from her Grammy-nominated album at the Kimmel Center on Saturday, January 30th at 8 pm. Details here.
What’s it like to pursue a life-changing dream in your forties? WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston finds out.
MUSIC: "Oh, John" - vocalist René Marie, from her CD, I Wanna Be Evil, With Love to Eartha Kitt
Meridee Duddleston: A scene in the life of vocalist René Marie reverberates with impact. In her early 40s, living in Virginia, and working at a bank, her college-age son called her up and told her to get down to a local restaurant. There, they listened to an uninspired performance by a female vocalist. The musicians were bored. The crowd was talking. The singer wasn’t into it.
René Marie: And I just thought it was a travesty - these beautiful pearls of songs, just being trampled. My son said, ‘Do it, Mom!' I will never forget that. He just looked at me and said, ‘Do this, mom!"
MD: Armed with a few cassette tapes and some songs she’d composed, Marie rose above the fear that it was too late. Her career gained steam almost immediately. Two decades and a store of albums later and counting, she decided to look into the mesmerizing quality of the late Eartha Kitt.
RM: I found myself being drawn to tunes where, as the woman singer, she was taking her sensuality and sexuality and power into her own hands.
MD: Her CD, I Wanna be Evil – is a love letter to the point of performing.
RM: When you allow yourself to sing a song that pushes past everybody’s barriers and boundaries, like the very nature of the song, or the very way you’re singing the song, pierces through all that armor - all those behavior guidelines that we have and make the listener cry or laugh out loud, or squirm in your seat, you know - that is when you know you reached somebody.