Millie Jackson is best known these days for her own brand of raunch, her racy takes on sexual mores and taboos. She’s been at it for 50 or so years, delivering commentary both on record and in concert that trades in the more explicit nature of adult relationships. That side of her performance style first made appearances in her live shows, in her banter with the crowd that she credits to her nervousness onstage.
She first put her spoken-word exploration of love and sex and their joys and pitfalls on “The Rap,” the second cut on her classic 1974 album Caught Up.
The track actually begins as an extension of her take on the well-known “other woman” anthem “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right.” Jackson’s version of that cut earned her two Grammy nominations.
The two tracks set up the narrative arc of Caught Up: Side 1 delving into the story of a mistress holding onto her man by pleasing him, and Side 2 taking on the persona of the wife who’s being cheated on. That second-side perspective is represented by some fine vocal performances, beginning with “It’s All Over But the Shouting,” co-written by Jackson, which opens with her response to the philandering husband’s suggestion they stay together for their kids, while he continues to see his other woman.
Perhaps Jackson’s finest vocal on the record is her cover of Bobby Womack’s “I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You,” which she begins by speaking in the wife’s voice of her role in her marriage’s breakup, then opens up and lays into the husband in the chorus that follows.
Just when you think you’ve heard the coolest thing Jackson had to offer, she closes the record with "Summer (The First Time),” the Bobby Goldsboro song that she uses to turn the mistress/wife concept on its ear, by revealing the possibility that the “other woman” we were introduced to on the first side might have been a 17-year-old girl. Goldsboro’s song about sexual awakening is certainly a powerful thing on its own, but when inserted into Caught Up’s concept, its power increases immeasurably.
Caught Up stands as one of Millie Jackson’s finest pieces of work, a record with tremendous heart and understanding...and a little bit of naughtiness, to boot.