Norma Taneja, the resurrection of an eccentric popular pioneer

Success, an affair with Dusty Springfield and two albums. In the mid-1960s, Panamanian and Filipino mestizo practiced free folk music without taking themselves seriously. Thirty songs to rediscover in an integral part today.

“I just played for my happiness and that might complicate things.” So spoke Norma Taneja in memory of the eccentric music career she enjoyed between the mid-1960s and the beginning of the following decade. Of this enchanted arc, whose mastery has largely eluded, there remain two albums and a handful of unreleased models, about thirty pieces re-released today on two CDs. An atypical folk, from whom, after more than fifty years, emanates spontaneity, freedom and a somewhat unusual charm, carried by a voice without influences or influence.

Attachment-free music

One can listen to this almost bondless music as the novelty of the year. Because if Norma Taneja marked souls for a while with the first song made in 1966 as a small tube in the United States as in England, that single success soon became forgotten. Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog, The careless little thing inspired by the imagination of her everyday life (since her Greenwich Village owner didn’t allow dogs, she walked a cat called “dog” on a leash), could pass by one of these new songs Which was circulating on the charts at the time, amid more “serious” results. But this was just a sample of the repertoire that Norma Taneja had been improving for three years in the village cafés, where Bob Dylan reigned supreme. A apocryphal legend tells of a meeting between two artists, one of whom showers some advice on the other while trying to get him to smoke weed – to no avail.

Norma landed in New York in 1963 after a year spent traversing Europe by hiking, Norma came from California. The daughter of an English-taught Panamanian immigrant and a Filipino recruited to the US Navy for US citizenship, she grew up around Los Angeles, an art student who gave up classical piano for acoustic guitar and autoharp under the influence of Joan Baez. This didn’t stop him from also feeding on Messrs. Aaron Copeland or George Gershwin. But all this without taking herself too seriously for a moment. The circumstances of her debut were somewhat serendipitous: While she was hosting a summer camp on the East Coast, she was spotted by a passing producer from New York, Herb Bernstein, and reported to by his friend Bob Crowe (Four Seasons songwriter) looking for a new talent for his brand.

In the mid-1960s, Norma Taneja fell in love with British singer Dusty Springfield, with whom she had a six-year affair and co-wrote half a dozen songs.

In the mid-1960s, Norma Taneja fell in love with British singer Dusty Springfield, with whom she had a six-year affair and co-wrote half a dozen songs.

Ralph Weiss pictures

The same year 1966 came out of nowhere Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog – A piece so unique that the Jasmine Art Blackie and Les Surfs Malagasy set (My cat’s name is Midor, In VF) – , then the album of the same name. This was followed by a tour, a trip to England. There is another crucial meeting. Behind the scenes of television filming, Norma Taneja falls in love with Dusty Springfield. With the sauerkraut singer, then at the helm of British pop, she would have a six-year affair, pause her career to sign half a dozen songs with her and take care of the home they share. In the London Borough of Kensington.

psychedelic people

“She was a singer, not me”, He will later summarize the American, who at the end of the story has a good idea, despite everything, before leaving London, to record an album with great local musicians. on me I don’t think it will hurt if you smile (1971), Tanega-style folk tinged with psychedelic colors, harpsichord, tambourine, subtle electric guitar.

But her RCA poster seems to believe no more in him than the artist herself, and this second volume, which we can judge better than the first, is falling by the wayside. With him, audio demos prove that Norma Taneja still has the resources, if not in tune with the times and necessities of work. “I’m a Stranger About This Time / My Life Never Rhymes”, Do you sing on Stranger With oddly suspicious echoes.

When she returned to the California sun in Claremont in 1972, she was supposed to draw a line under the pop saga. With her new companion, artist Diane Devlepis, she taught at Cal Poly Pomona Cultural Center and settled at the foot of Mount Baldy, later known to house Zen Abbey where Leonard Cohen occasionally retires. Music, played only as an amateur, with friends and a penchant for rhythm. From time to time, fate winks at him, as in 2014 when the New Zealand vampire comedy, What do we do in the shade?restores the features of his song you are dead…whose shocking lyrics ridiculed the music world in 1966. Norma Taneja disappeared in 2019 from cancer, and she already had good reason to believe in life after death.


to listen

s Norma Taneja I Am Heaven: Studio and Experimental Recordings, 1964-1971 (Rec./Modulor Anthology).

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