Margie Talks About
by Barbara Karkabi
Could it be you ask too much, lovable lady
I wonder what you're thinking, beautiful woman
It seems like a fog is settling in within your eyes
And the weight of something is pulling your shoulders down.
-Beautiful Soul, by Margie Adam
She walks on stage quietly, her long and
lanky body seeming tremendously vulnerable. Yet, when Margie Adam sits
down at the piano, throws back her curly
head and begins to beat out the music of
her songs, she becomes a woman filled
with energy and fire.
Her recent concert in Houston was an
almost-continuous rap session, combining
her songs with her feelings about what it's
like to be a woman in the seventies. Her
between-songs talks were stylized, witty
and personal-"so, I think what I'll do tonight, is sing a little and talk a little, so
just sit back and relax." "Or," she turned
to her audience after another song, " on
the other hand," she continued ... as if
the entire performance was an ongoing
dialogue or story.
The raps, like the other devices Adam
uses, such as coming out into the audience after the show and holding workshops, are a means of bridging the gap between audience and performer, something
which is very important to her.
The daughter of a Broadway show
composer and a classical pianist, Adam
began writing instrumental music in 1963
and soon went on to music with lyrics.
But, even though Adam knew she had a
talent, she graduated from the University
of California at Berkeley with a degree in
English literature, thinking of becoming
"So, I went off to the country," she
says, "and the lyrics came in hours. They
just came spilling out, I was writing all
the time. It was as if my muse paid me
back for taking the risk and said, "Ok,
Marge, here it is."
After that, things just seemed to fall
into place for Adam. Kate Millet held the
Woman's Music Festival in 1972 and
Adam drove up and performed in that. "I
didn't even know how to use a microphone," she recalls, "but everybody
seemed to love my songs."
Following the festival, a group of
women invited her to perform in Los Angeles and Adam laughingly recalls that she
marched off to the local Veterans Hall
and asked to learn how to use their sound
system. But, in spite of all that, she never
meant to be a performer. She always intended to get somebody else to sing her
"I just didn't see a style I wanted to
pattern myself after. All the acts I saw
were so limited, they were all somebody
else's packaging and commercial calculations," she says.
Even her style, which appears to be totally natural and spontaneous, took years
of working with audiences to achieve the
intricate blend of songs and philosophies.
In fact, she says, it was her audience that
encouraged her to keep on performing.
There is a circle of community that
can occur in women's music and I
want to pass that feeling on."
an English teacher or a copy editor at
"It just hadn't ocurred to me to face
my music, because it was far too personal a thing. I think many women are afraid
to fail at a talent which is almost too personal for them to reveal," Adam says.
But, fortunately for Adam, she had
some real help and encouragement at a
crucial point . In the early seventies, after
working at unfulfilling jobs as a secretary
and an English teacher, she decided to
take one year off and "confront my
muse." One year out of a lifetime she
says is not much, compared to years of
"Basically, my style evolved from the
permission my audiences gave me—my act
is me. Obviously, in an hour and a half
you can't reveal all of yourself, but it is
The qualities she tries to evoke on
stage are a combination of strength and
vulnerability. She sees herself constantly
developing these two elements, along
with the need to express what feels good
and what feels bad; self-affirmation and a
basic respect for other people. Adam believes that these are truly feminist and
humanist values, which she hopes her
audiences will discover in themselves.
"I believe it's really important for
women to see that vulnerability can coexist with strength. It is possible to be in
touch with our own feelings and still not
lose control of our lives. I try to project
that in my concerts. So many of us have
been taught that it's bad to be in" touch
with your feelings, and we just have to
get away from that," she says.
From these feelings stem songs like
I've Got a Fury, about the importance of
expressing anger and Beautiful Soul, a
song about battered women. Adam says
that her favorite song varies from night to
night. "But, if I were only able to share
one thought, if I had the opportunity
to get into everybody's brain, I would
choose Best Friend.
"Musically, it has a kind of inevitability that makes it totally accessible to aud-
ences. I didn't force any of it. By the
time I get to the chorus, it is absolutely
inevitable that the audience repeat the refrain. I live to get those kind of responses.
Plus it's a dear and beautiful song that I
wrote for myself," she says.
Adam was not always in the vanguard
of the women's movement. Her awakening came in 1970, when she worked as a
registrar's secretary. She remembers that
because she was behind a counter, people
treated her as if she were nothing, even
though she had a degree.
"Previously, I had thought that the
women's movement was for people that
couldn't get on, which is typical of my
class. Although, it had all been real easy
for me, I soon discovered that for most
women it wasn't, and the truth of the
matter is that it's no fun," Adam says.
So Adam decided to write about her
feelings, and has received rave reviews all
over the country for her women's music.
She has also formed Pleiades Record
Company, which produced her album
Margie Adam: Songwriter, and employs
Adam considers herself to be a true
product of the women's movement. She
believes her audiences have had everything to do with her songs and introductions, "because they've been up-front
about what they want to hear." Her lyrics
have changed as she has been educated
about the reality of women's lives.
"That's why I make it my responsibility
to communicate with audiences, it is just
so important. There is a circle of community that can occur in women's music
that really gets me off and I want to pass
that feeling on."
The Margie Adam Concert was co-
sponsored by Off the Wall Productions,
the Breakthrough Foundation, and the
UH University Feminists.
16 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH DECEMBER/JANUARY 1979