Owing muses

By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  August 25, 2009

Surveying the most significant songs of his youth brought King to a stunning (if not uncommon) realization: he was a gay man brought largely into being by a litany of female voices. Next Thursday, with his band What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?, he'll connect one formative song to the next in a show he's penned, Venus As a Boy. King — whose voice can simmer in blues, tremble with high drama, and faint into a yawning croon — is well equipped for this repertoire, which invokes as much Cher and Madonna as it does Billie, Joni, and Janis. He isn't covering songs so much as he's uncovering himself.

"The fact that I was responding to 'As Long As He Needs Me' — a pretty complicated song about accepting rejection — at such a young age, is pretty fascinating to me." Other selections have lighter associations ("Son of a Preacher Man" is a shout to his partner, a Lutheran minister, "Night of the Swallow" a trip back to extensive mushroom use at UMass), but each one says something that the young King couldn't (or that Aretha didn't quite intend to).

" '(You Make Me Feel like a) Natural Woman' really changed for me when I realized I could sing it. It's such a different perspective when it's sung by a man. I know it's a cliché, and I'll get shot for saying this, but I think men want to feel natural in their relationships, and for us, we always had male/female relationships as our model. So part of it is about wanting to feel valid and normal — wanting to feel like a natural woman."

BRIAN KING AND WHAT TIME IS IT, MR. FOX? + SARAH RABDAU | Club Passim, 47 Palmer St, Cambridge | September 3 at 8 pm | $12 | 617.492.5300 or www.clubpassim.org

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