This week’s slice of vile audio was released 40 years ago. The world has changed a lot in those four decades, yet listening to it again this morning I still find it utterly repugnant. File under Letter To An Unborn Child.
Produced by country superstar Chet Atkins, and featuring Elvis’s backing singers the Jordanaires, Lorene Mann’s clumsily-titled and self-penned Hide My Sin (A – b – o – r – t – I – o - n N – e – w Y – o – r – k) is the shocking tale of how a good old country girl has had to fly to New York, hand over $300 at a backstreet clinic and have a foetus terminated. Please don’t get me started on the rights and wrongs of this process – I strongly believe that it is a woman’s prerogative to do what the damn well she pleases with her body and that no Government or Right Wing talking head can tell her otherwise. There are dozens of reasons for wanting or needing to have an abortion and it’s not up to me or to anyone else on this planet to interfere. Oh damn, I did get started, didn’t I? Never mind; back to the music.
Born in 1937, Lorene Mann’s career in country music began when she signed in late 1964 for RCA. Often recording with singer Archie Campbell, she released a number of singles and several albums between 1965 and the mid 70’s but then she all but disappears from view. There’s an obscure mention of her having undergone ‘several bouts of surgery’ in a 1970 issue of Billboard, which she clearly recovered well enough from to produce this piece of garbage, and then she became active as an officer in the Nashville Songwriters Association. It appears that, at this point, she put her singing career behind her to concentrate on writing. Jerry Wallace recorded a number of her songs including the mawkish I Wanna Go To Heaven, and in 1974 she won an award for the Most Promising Country Music Writer of the Year, even though she had maintained a successful side-line in writing songs for other artists for some years. She appeared in a minor role (as Dolorosa Sister Number One) in the Burt Reynolds stinker W W and the Dixie Dancekings in 1975, and that’s about it.
What kind of woman would write something as disgusting as this? How much self-loathing must you be carrying around? Or are we missing the point? Perhaps this isn’t the tale of a lonely, frightened woman slinking off in shame but of a woman who is steadfast in her desire for an abortion but who knows that she will not be able to have one in her own community? In 1970, New York passed the most permissive abortion law in America and virtually overnight a new industry sprang up, promoting itself to women across the States with ad tag lines such as ‘Want to be un-pregnant?’
A month after its January 1972 release Lorene’s single was hailed in Billboard thusly: ‘the reaction to Lorene Mann’s “My Sin” (sic) is so incredible that she has taken off on a tour of the major metropolitan cities. The wire services have done feature stories on it and Miss Mann, with RCA, may have a big hit on her hand (sic). She’s the first to write and sing about abortion, and Chet Atkins not only produced it, but played the fiddle (not the guitar) on the session.’
I’d love to think Lorene saw this as a rather back-handed song about empowerment – she did, after all, also pen a song called Don't Put Your Hands on Me, which was a call to arms for any woman who had been hit on by a drunk in a bar. But if that’s the case why call it Hide My Sin and end with the line ‘God be kind to me on Judgement Day? Why the shame? It just doesn’t add up.
Thank goodness the world has moved on some.