Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “What I Am”

The band’s folky jazz sound was a breath of fresh air for radio listeners who were recovering from a decade of hair bands and omnipresent MTV acts.

To the younger Americana audience, Edie Brickell is most recognized as Steve Martin’s duo partner, and to others she may be best known as the wife of Songwriters Hall of Fame icon Paul Simon. But before she was either of those, she fronted Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, whose breakout (and pretty much only) hit, “What I Am,” took Top 40 radio in a different direction in 1989. The band’s folky jazz sound was a breath of fresh air for radio listeners who were recovering from a decade of hair bands and omnipresent MTV acts. Driven by a fretless bass, “What I Am” was heralded as everything from beatnik-inspired existentialism to complete gibberish. With lyrics she spoke nearly as much as she sang, Brickell came across to some as a person who didn’t know a lot about life and maybe didn’t really care to. A deeper look at those words, however, revealed an artist who was a whole lot smarter than she may have seemed.     Many writers struggle to rhyme the last word of every line, even though a rhyming word isn’t always what’s best for the song. In this case, not a single line of this song…

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