Willie Mae “Big Mamma” Thornton(December 11, 1926-July 25, 1984) -was an American rhythm-and-blues singer and songwriter. She was the first to record Leiber and Stoller’s “Hound Dog”, in 1952, which became her biggest hit, staying seven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B chart in 1953 and selling almost two million copies. However, her success was overshadowed three years later, when Elvis Presley recorded his more popular rendition of “Hound Dog”. Similarly, Thornton’s “Ball ‘n’ Chain” (written in 1961 but not released until 1968) had a bigger impact when performed and recorded by Janis Joplin in the late 1960s.
Thornton’s performances were characterized by her deep, powerful
voice and strong sense of self. She tapped into a liberated black
feminist persona, through which she freed herself from many of the
expectations of musical, lyrical, and physical practice for black women. She was given her nickname, “Big Mama,” by Frank Schiffman, the manager of Harlem’s Apollo Theater,
because of her strong voice, size, and personality. Thornton used her
voice to its full potential, once stating that she was louder than any
microphone and didn’t want a microphone to ever be as loud as she was.
She was known for her strong voice.
Joplin’s biographer Alice Echols said that Thornton could sing in a
“pretty voice” but did not want to. Thornton said, “My singing comes
from my experience.…My own experience. I never had no one teach me
nothin’. I never went to school for music or nothin’. I taught myself to
sing and to blow harmonica and even to play drums by watchin’ other
people! I can’t read music, but I know what I’m singing! I don’t sing
like nobody but myself.”
Her style was heavily influenced by gospel music, which she grew up
listening to at the home of a preacher, though her genre could be
described as blues. Thornton was quoted in a 1980 article in the New York TImes:
“when I was comin’ up, listening to Bessie Smith and all, they sung
from their heart and soul and expressed themselves. That’s why when I do
a song by Jimmy Reed or somebody, I have my own way of singing it.
Because I don’t want to be Jimmy Reed, I want to be me. I like to put
myself into whatever I’m doin’ so I can feel it”.
Thornton was famous for her transgressive gender expression. She
often dressed as a man in her performances, wearing work shirts and
slacks. She did not care about the opinions of others and “was openly
gay and performed risque songs unabashedly.” Improvisation was a notable part of her performance. She often entered call-and-response
exchanges with her band, inserting confident and subversive remarks.
Her play with gender and sexuality set the stage for later rock-and-roll
artists’ plays with sexuality.
Scholars such as Maureen Mahon have praised Thornton for subverting traditional roles of African-American women.
She added a female voice to a field that was dominated by white males,
and her strong personality transgressed stereotypes of what an
African-American woman should be. This transgression was an integral
part of her performance and stage persona.
Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin admired her unique style of singing and
incorporated elements of it in their own work. Her vocal sound and style
of delivery are key parts of her style and are recognizable in
Presley’s and Joplin’s work.
Thornton’s birth certificate states that she was born in Ariton, Alabama, but in an interview with Chris Strachwitz she claimed Montgomery, Alabama, as her birthplace, probably because Montgomery was better known than Ariton.
She was introduced to music in a Baptist church, where her father was a
minister and her mother a singer. She and her six siblings began to
sing at early ages. Her mother died young, and Willlie Mae left school and got a job washing and cleaning spittoons in a local tavern. In 1940 she left home and, with the help of Diamond Teeth Mary, joined Sammy Greens Hot Harlem Revue and was soon billed as the “New Bessie Smith”.
Her musical education started in the church but continued through her
observation of the rhythm-and-blues singers Bessie Smith and Memphis
Minnie, whom she deeply admired.
Thornton’s career began to take off when she moved to Houston in 1948.
“A new kind of popular blues was coming out of the clubs in Texas and
Los Angeles, full of brass horns, jumpy rhythms, and wisecracking
lyrics.” She signed a recording contract with Peacock Records in 1951 and performed at the Apollo Theater in 1952. Also in 1952, she recorded “Hound Dog” while working with another Peacock artist, Johnny Otis. The songwriters, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, were present at the recording, with Leiber demonstrating the song in the vocal style they had envisioned.
The record was produced by Leiber and Stoller. Otis played drums after
the original drummer was unable to play an adequate part. It was the
first recording produced by Leiber and Stoller. The record went to
number one on the R&B chart. The record made her a star, but she saw little of the profits. On Christmas Day 1954 in a Houston, Texas theatre she witnessed fellow performer Johnny Ace, also signed to Duke and Peacock record labels, accidentally shoot and kill himself while playing with a .22 pistol. Thornton continued to record for Peacock until 1957 and performed in R&B package tours with Junior Parker and Esther Phillips.
Thornton originally recorded her song “Ball ‘n’ Chain” for Bay-Tone
Records in the early 1960s, “and though the label chose not to release
the song…they did hold on to the copyright—which meant that Thornton
missed out on the publishing royalties when Janis Joplin recorded the
song later in the decade.”
As her career began to fade in the late 1950s and early 1960s,
she left Houston and relocated to the San Francisco Bay area, “playing
clubs in San Francisco and L.A. and recording for a succession of
labels”, notably the Berkeley-based Arhoolie Records. In 1965, she toured with the American Folk Blues Festival in Europe,
where her success was notable “because very few female blues singers at
that time had ever enjoyed success across the Atlantic.” While in England that year, she recorded her first album for Arhoolie, Big Mama Thornton – In Europe. It featured backing by blues veterans Buddy Guy (guitar), Fred Below (drums), Eddie Boyd (keyboards), Jimmy Lee Robinson (bass), and Walter “Shakey” Horton (harmonica), except for three songs on which Fred McDowell provided acoustic slide guitar.
By 1969, Thornton had signed with Mercury Records, which released her most successful album, Stronger Than Dirt, which reached number 198 in the Billboard Top 200
record chart. Thornton had now signed a contract with Pentagram Records
and could finally fulfill one of her biggest dreams. A blues woman and
the daughter of a preacher, Thornton loved the blues and what she called
the “good singing” of gospel artists like the Dixie Hummingbirds and
Mahalia Jackson. She had always wanted to record a gospel record, and
with the album Saved (PE 10005), she achieved that longtime goal.
The album includes the gospel classics “Oh, Happy Day,” “Down By The
Riverside,” “Glory, Glory Hallelujah,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His
Hands,” “Lord Save Me,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “One More River” and
“Go Down Moses”.
By then the American blues revival had come to an end. While the
original blues acts like Thornton mostly played smaller venues, younger
people played their versions of blues in massive arenas for big money.
Since the blues had seeped into other genres of music, the blues
musician no longer needed impoverishment or geography for
substantiation; the style was enough. While at home the offers became
fewer and smaller, things changed for good in 1972, when Thornton was
asked to rejoin the American Folk Blues Festival tour. She thought of
Europe as a good place for her, and, with the lack of engagements in the
United States, she agreed happily. The tour, beginning on March 2.
brought Thornton to Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the
Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, where it ended on
March 27 in Stockholm. With her on the bill were Eddie Boyd, Big Joe
Williams, Robert Pete Williams, T- Bone Walker, Paul Lenart, Hartley
Severns, Edward Taylor and Vinton Johnson. As in 1965, they garnered
recognition and respect from other musicians who wanted to see them.
In the 1970s, years of heavy drinking began to damage Thornton’s
health. She was in a serious auto accident but recovered to perform at
the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival with Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson (a recording of this performance, The Blues—A Real Summit Meeting, was released by Buddha Records). Thornton’s last albums were Jail and Sassy Mama for Vanguard Records in 1975. Other songs from the recording session were released in 2000 on Big Mama Swings. Jail captured her performances during mid-1970s concerts at two prisons in the northwestern United States. She was backed by a blues ensemble that featured sustained jams by George “Harmonica” Smith and included the guitarists Doug Macleod,
Bee Houston and Steve Wachsman; the drummer Todd Nelson; the
saxophonist Bill Potter; the bassist Bruce Sieverson; and the pianist J.
D. Nicholson. She toured intensively through the United States and
Canada, played at the Juneteenth Blues Fest in Houston and shared the
bill with John Lee Hooker. She performed at the San Francisco Blues Festival
in 1979 and the Newport Jazz Festival in 1980. In the early 1970s,
Thornton’s sexual proclivities became a question among blues fans. Big Mama also performed in the “Blues Is a Woman” concert that year, alongside classic blues legend Sippie Wallace,
sporting a man’s three-piece suit, straw hat, and gold watch. She sat
at stage center and played pieces she wanted to play, which were not on
Thornton took part in the Tribal Stomp at Monterey Fairgrounds, the
Third Annual Sacramento Blues Festival, the Los Angeles Bicentennial
Blues with BB King and Muddy Waters. She was a guest on an ABC-TV
special hosted by the actor Hal Holbrook joined by Aretha Franklin and toured through the club scene. She was also part of the award-winning PBS television special Three Generations of the blues with Sippie Wallace and Jeannie Cheatham.
Thornton was found dead at age 57 by medical personnel in a Los Angeles boarding house
on July 25, 1984. She died of heart and liver disorders due to her
longstanding alcohol abuse. She had lost 255 pounds (116 kg) in a short
time as a result of illness, her weight dropping from 350 to 95 pounds
Literature: Spörke, Michael: Big Mama Thornton - The Life And Music. Jefferson: McFarland, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-7759-3
During her career, Thornton was nominated for the Blues Music Awards six times. In 1984, she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
In addition to “Ball 'n’ Chain” and “They Call Me Big Mama,” Thornton
wrote twenty other blues songs. Her “Ball 'n’ Chain” is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.
It wasn’t until Janis Joplin covered Thornton’s “Ball 'n’ Chain” that
it became a huge hit. Thornton did not receive compensation for her
song, but Joplin gave her the recognition she deserved by having
Thornton open for her. Joplin found her singing voice through Thornton,
who praised Joplin’s version of “Ball 'n’ Chain”, saying, “That girl
feels like I do.”
Thornton subsequently received greater recognition for her popular
songs, but she is still underappreciated for her influence on the blues
and soul music.
Thornton’s music was also influential in shaping American popular
music. The lack of appreciation she received for “Hound Dog” and “Ball
'n’ Chain” as they became popular hits is representative of the lack of
recognition she received during her career as a whole.
Many critics argue that Thornton’s lack of recognition in the music industry is a reflection of an era of racial segregation in the United States, both physically and in the music industry.
Scholars suggest that Thornton’s lack of access to broader audiences
(both white and black), may have been a barrier to her commercial
success as both a vocalist and a composer.
The first full-length biography of Thornton, Big Mama Thornton: The Life and Music, by Michael Spörke, was published in 2014.
In 2004, the nonprofit Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, named for
Thornton, was founded to offer a musical education to girls from ages
eight to eighteen.
If you want to know how deep heteronormativity runs, just look at Wonderland. There are LOADS of evidence that suggest it could be about Dianna Agron, and yet the one moment it has a reference (that’s not even substantial) to Harry Styles, it automatically becomes about him. Apparently, it’s ridiculous to think that a song could be about Dianna Agron because she and Taylor Swift are both girls…
The term Party (パーティー, Pātī?) refers to the collection of characters
under the player’s control in the Final Fantasy series. Parties thus
decide who the player takes into battle, making it a pivotal detail of
the game’s battle system.
[Vhalken Sven Leingod]
Name: Vhalken Sven Leingod Race: Hyur Age: 24 Gender: Male Height: 6'1 Weight: 220 Lbs Eyes: Crystal Blue Hair: Blonde Job: Fighter Limit break: Animus Slash - Vhalken extends a bright blue aura around him, then delivers a series
attacks with his massive greatsword while dashing from side to side to
drive the enemy into the air from the sheer strength of his blows. He then
proceeds to slash and cleave his opponent through the air before diving
down to deliver a final attack and slam them to the ground.
Fighting Style: Vhalken
utilizes the greatsword, harnessing its vast length of steel like an
extension of his body, trouncing his enemies with overwhelming force and
artistry. When held in front of him, the fuller of his greatsword is broad enough to act as a shield, employing his
colossal blade defensively, protecting his friends from harms way while
in the heat of of the fight. With sword in hand, Vhalken delivers
immense levels of damage to immobilize his foes into submission,
allowing his friends to remain unscathed while keeping the focus of
battle on himself, garnering the attention of antagonists with battle
cries and stunning swordsmanship.
Name: Galaihaurat d’Oraguille Race: Elezen Age: 31 Gender: Male Height: 6 fulms, 6 ilms Weight: 210 ponze Eyes: Silver Hair: Gray Job: Templar Limit break:Her Judge, Fury, Executioner -
Galaihaurat channels his faith, beseeching Her Fury’s blessings.
Whether it be through divine intervention or blind devotion, the Templar
rallies his party, granting increased fervor and bolstering their
Fighting Style: Galaihaurat brandishes
both sword and shield in combat, utilizing both designs in tandem with
each other. A trained fencer, he is as poetic on the field of battle as
he is about the hearth. His signature stance places him beneath his
raised bulwark, sword arm resting his blade atop the width of his
shield. With finesse, the knight takes to puncturing his foes, before
tearing their defenses asunder through sporadic strikes.
[Telithea Hope Engel]
Name: Telithea Hope Engel Race: Hyur Age: 21 Gender: Female Height:5'0’ Weight:120 Eyes: Violet Hair: Dark Cherry Red Job: Bard Limit break: Hymn of Hope - Telithea centers her focus on her music, playing an uplifting song with an aura that lightens their burden, rapidly restoring their synergy and aspiration and allowing her allies to continue the battle with courage and valor.
Fighting Style: As an archer,
Telithea’s forte lies within her ranged attacks. Graceful and swift, she
is able to blend in the shadows of her surroundings and strike at
unsuspecting foes from a long distance. With an impressive talent in art
and in voice, she is also able to rally her party through inspirational
ballads with the promise of victory and hope in every tune.
Name: Laila Hart Race: Hyur Age: 17 Gender: Female Height: 5'2 Weight: 117 Eyes: Brown Hair: Black Job: Monk Limit break:Heaven’s Brink -Laila
delays for a moment, verdant illuminations beginning to channel from
clenched fist. Attuning to a higher focus of concentration, dexterity
and agility, the brawler launches forward to deliver a devastating
attack that allows her to pass through her opponent with a fist led blow
that causes her enemy to erupt in a violent display of blinding light.
Laila is a pugilist-based combatant that is truly never without her
weapon of choice. Using a combination of martial arts and brawler-type
tactics, the small woman tends to greatly overpower any foe by utilizing
her body as a core component of her fighting style. Lacking substantial
form of guard via heavily armoured equipment, Laila instead relies on
her heightened ability of evasion based defenses through a series of
dodging and parrying. Her agility and feather foot movements allow her
greater movement and often the knuckle-fighter is seen taking to the sky
for moments of aerial based combat. As an enhancement option, Laila
often adorns magitek enhanced gauntlets which equip her already deadly.
Name: Alistaire Dietrich Race: Hyur Age: 24 Gender: Male Height: 5’11 Weight: 180 Lbs Eyes: Azure Blue Hair: Onyx Black Job: Lancer/Dragoon-in-Training Limit break: Valiant Spear
- Alistaire propels himself off the ground, launching himself high into
the sky. The Dragoon shoots out of sight before he begins to fall from
the heavens, lance at the ready as he descends on his by hitting his foe
for a large amount of damage.
Fighting Style: Though
still rather young, Alistaire has mastered the technique of the Lance.
Agile yet strong, the Hyur can swiftly take down his foes. His style of
fighting is aggressive and his lance arm powerful and true. He has no
trouble overwhelming his opponent with a flurry of strikes, therefore
his role is that of hard hitting damage abilities, making sure foes fall
to his might.
Name: Oniyuri Tsukashima Race: Au Ra (Glamoured as Hyur) Age: 16 Gender: Female Height: 4 fulms, 9 ilms Weight: 126 ponze Eyes: Silver, though the limbral rings on her eyes seem to glow white Hair: Pure White Job: Summoner Limit break:Mist Dragon - Oniyuri channels aetherial energy around her as a mist suddenly sets in. A low growl is heard before the mist starts rising, forming into the shape of a giant dragon that flies into the air, releasing an ear-piercing roar before reaching its apex. Turning over, the mist dragon breathes in a deep breath before releasing a cone of freezing fog, damaging all those that threaten the summoner.
Fighting Style: Oniyuri keeps herself to the back of the combat lines, supporting with her spells primarily. When she has her eidolon called, she uses only status ailment spells while directing her eidolon to help flank opponents that her melee compansions are fighting.
Name: Sairen Saresh Race: Hyur (Midlander) Gender: Male Age: 27 Height: 5'11" Weight: 170 lbs. Eyes: Bronze Hair: Blonde Job: Dragoon Limit Break: Skyfall - Sairen dashes forward and performs a spinning slash with his weapon before slicing upwards and leaping high into the air. He gathers his strength before executing a massive downward smash that obliterates common enemies and does significant damage to elite foes or champions.
Fighting Style: Sairen utilizes a more unconventional style than many of the other adventurers of Eorzea. Whether Disciples of War or Disciples of Magic, the majority use either some variant of short range melee combat or long range combat with magic or a bow and arrow. Sairen Saresh is a master of medium ranged combat. Using the length of a polearm, his weapon of choice, the 27 year old Ishgardian can harass his opponents from beyond swords reach. Sairen combines the weapon’s range with a very dash based set of movements allowing him to dash in and strike before retreating back out of reach. The technique has some weaknesses as the heavy focus on offense leaves gapping holes in the style’s defensive capabilities. As a dragoon lancer of Ishgard, this is a result of combatting dragons where minute attacks weren’t as important as maintaining a safe range from limbs and wings was more important.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Let’s go team!” - Vhalken Sven Leingod
Assuming a character has eyes set into their palms rather than their face (not intended to be practical or a good thing), how drastically would this impede combat ability, and what (if anything) could be done about it?
If their eyes were set in their palms, rather than their face then they would use their hands to see rather than fight. This would limit their attacking considerably, because they also would not be able to, really, make use their arms. Thus, their hands become the part of the body they are most focused on protecting.
They’ll use their legs and their feet, possibly their body, and almost certainly their head. They may also bite more.
The vast majority of fighting styles you’re looking at are based around having your eyes and other important organs within a human body because they’re designed for people. If this person is basically human and just has their eyes in their hands (and nowhere else), then they are going to be remarkably fragile. The hands are incredibly easy to lock up and segregate off from the rest of the body. If they close their fingers into fists to protect them, then they blind themselves.
A basic rule of thumb to understand about your body is this: the further away it is from your head and your center then the less you need it. Human evolution has essentially structured us so that everything we need to survive is collected in a fairly easy to protect place. Your limbs are what you use to protect that center. (When I say “need”, I mean “absolutely 100% necessary for your body to continue functioning in the worst case scenario”, this is your heart and your brain.) If you move a body part such as an eye to somewhere else on your body, then you are not only changing the dynamic of how it functions but also it’s level of importance.
With their eyes moved to their hands, (assuming you want them to continue being able to do similar every day activities such as cooking, cleaning, picking up objects, and generally caring for themselves) then, since they’ve been moved to a much more risky spot, they have dropped significantly on the scale of necessary body parts and their vision will also be much more limited.
When coming up with rules for this character, you may want to consider the sight being a non-essential, or less essential sense when compared to the other four. Touch is also a little screwy due to the eyes being in the hands. They may simply have a much better sense of smell or hearing to compensate for the lack of sight.
It’s a matter of adaptation and this is where looking into different fighting styles for an idea of how they might fight won’t help you. All combat styles in the real world are developed for humans. They are designed with the idea that your eyes are going to be in your head and that you (as a non-impaired human) will be highly dependent on them. If you are set on using real world fighting styles, then you may want to look into teaching tactics for blind students. There are quite a few examples out there of the blind practicing martial arts. Again, though, this character is going to have different concerns.
What you should probably start doing, if you haven’t already, is to begin tracking what you use your hands for everyday. When you are performing everyday activities start imagining what it would be like if your eyeballs were in your palms. If you are in class, how would you read a whiteboard? How would you take notes? How do you hold a hot cup of coffee?
Begin coming up with strategies the character might use to adapt in similar situations. Beyond combat, this is what’s going to be key to writing the character. It’s a neat idea to play with, but you’re going to have to be the one to figure out how to make it work on the page. Figuring out how the character goes about their everyday, what they use their limbs for, how they’ve adapted, will be key toward figuring out how a character fights.
On the most basic of basic levels martial combat is understanding its structured around the basic idea that certain body parts need to be protected. The same ones to be protected are also the points one attacks in an opponent. If you haven’t discovered what parts of their body this character needs to protect, then figuring out how they fight is going to be very difficult.
Most fighting styles make substantial use of the palm in defense. While one can use the forearm and wrist, grabbing is necessary for grappling, and using the hand can provide more control over the opponent when it comes to deflection and/or transitioning into holds. When attacking with the palm, the heel is the primary method of striking, but open hand strikes such as slaps and boxing the ears are common. Slaps are also very common in instances where someone wishes to prolong the combat period and leave fewer signs of a struggle due to the force of the blow being spread over a wider part of the body. This is the primary reason why many abusers slap instead of punch, and its where the term “slapping them around” comes from.
The lack of hand usage is a substantial blow to their combat ability. However, what is even greater blow is the part where the hands are in constant motion. For reference, it would be like watching the world with a particularly rapid form of fast cuts and shaky cam. Assuming their eyes work how human eyes normally function then they would constantly be losing sight of their enemy. If they are sight reliant, then that is very bad. They also, depending on how their eyes function, may not be able to judge distance well.
The average/non-impaired fighter will only really lose sight of their opponent when they spin and even then, it’s only for a fraction of a second. This assumes that neither sweat nor blood impede their vision. This character may be forced to close their fingers all the time. If they don’t, they’ll still need to turn their hands back toward themselves in order to protect the inside of their arms (where the veins are). I know my hands become very sweaty when I get nervous/work out, so that may be another concern. Their eyes are also in danger if they fall. When we fall, we often try to use our hands to catch ourselves (which can lead to injury anyway). This is obviously a problem for this character and it’s going to hurt their utility if they have no adaptations to support it.
Again, though, if their eyes aren’t the main sense they use to perceive the world around them then the discussion changes direction entirely. I suggest looking into insects and crustaceans that have their eyes separated/unprotected from their body to get ideas.
This was just stuff I thought of. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find more.