Queen Isabella

Daddy B. Nice's #91 ranked Southern Soul Artist



Portrait of Queen Isabella by Daddy B. Nice
 



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"I Hear You Knocking"

Queen Isabella

Composed by R. D. S. The Mystery Lady


April 1, 2011: Author's Forward

THE LITTLE SONG THAT REFUSES TO DIE: "I HEAR YOU KNOCKIN'" (reprinted from Daddy B. Nice's Corner, November 2009)

It never fails. Every three months a letter comes into Daddy B. Nice's Mailbag regarding the song "I Hear You Knockin'".

Daddy B. Nice. . .

"I'm in need of your help again. I heard this song and it goes like this: "I hear you knocking baby but I can't let you in. I'm too busy making love to your best friend". . . So if you can help me out again I would truly appreciate it. . . I know a female sings it."

Daddy B. Nice. . .

"A local radio dj has been playing this song ("I Hear You Knockin'") regularly for at least the last 5 years. . . "

"Daddy B. Nice. . .

Do you know of any other females who sang "I Hear You Knocking" besides Queen Isabella? Maybe Nellie Tiger Travis? thanks!"

That last one--from Franklin in Key West, Florida--just came in.

Mind you. This "I Hear You Knockin'" is not to be confused with the much more well-known song "I Hear You Knockin'" written by legendary R&B producer Dave Bartholomew with Pearl King and recorded perhaps most famously by Fats Domino (although first by Smiley Lewis) and Dave Edmunds among hundreds of others. That song, the forerunner of the current song, has lyrics which go roughly like this:

"You went away and left me,
And now you come back,
Knocking on my door.
I hear you knocking,
But you can't come in. . . "

--And it was usually sung by a man.

The version of "I Hear You Knockin'" that enthralls Southern Soul fans is a basic twelve-bar blues like its predecessor but with lyrics that take a distinctly female perspective, a vengeful, in-your-face attitude that implies either a wronged woman or a temptress incarnate.

The song we're talking about was written, somewhat intriguingly, by R.D.S. The Mystery Lady. Here is what your Daddy B. Nice had to say about it in the Queen Isabella Artist Guide.

"The fan of Southern Soul doesn't really appreciate a singer like Queen Isabella and a song like "I Hear You Knocking"--a song, in other words, in the rough-and-tumble style of Barbara Carr and Peggy Scott-Adams--until he or she takes a vacation from the music and returns to listen to it fresh. That's when Queen Isabella's unpolished sound feels as essential to the ear and heart as fried potatoes to a hungry stomach. That back-alley-produced sound--directly descended from under-exposed R&B pioneers like Ann Rabson, Ruth Brown and, ultimately, Bessie Smith--is a rare and precious commodity."

Here's a rough summary of the lyrics:

"Baby, I hear you knocking,
But I can't stop to let you in.
You see right now I'm a little too busy.
I'm making love to your best friend. . .

We changed the locks on the door
Because we didn't want to be disturbed.
You said to me,
'Girl, you've got your nerve.'

But wait a minute.
There's a little bit more.
Right now, he's got me in a spin.
He's taking my body to places
You ain't never been. . .

He's making love to me
Over and over from my head to my feet.
Babe, he's taking me to places you never did. . .

Oh baby, you wouldn't believe
How this man keeps turning me on.
Babe, you'd better get away from the door.
He's about to bring something out in me
That you've never heard before. . . "

And so on. . .

This is what in New York they used to call a feminist anthem. This woman is putting some hurt on her man--the one outside the door, that is. She's also making some big trouble for both. With the previously clandestine lovers on the inside and presumably cuckolded husband on the outside, the woman throws down the gauntlet when she says, "I'm making love to your best friend," and the rant accelerates.

Think of the dilemma of the interloper (the husband's best friend) on the inside with the woman. Not only caught in the act but identified. No back-window exit now. Forced to confront, two old "bulls" fighting over one very-ready, very-rambunctious woman.

The Mystery Lady put out two albums, 1996's Midnight Run (Monaco) and 2000's Burning For Ya Love (Monaco). "I Hear You Knockin'" made its debut on the Midnight Run album. Subsequently, the song showed up on the Super Soul Club Hits compilation album (Mardi Gras, 2000).

Then came the version of "I Hear You Knockin'" by Queen Isabella from the Loving A Married Man album (Kon-Kord, 2001). (See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Queen Isabella.)

Next up came a version of "I Hear You Knockin'" by Rasheeda from the Bruce Billups-produced
Southern Soul/Urban Mix album (Makecents, 2006). This album by Theodis Ealey's longtime collaborator was also a compilation CD featuring a variety of artists, and it still sounds so new it's amazing to think three years have already passed. Rasheeda, as far as I know, is not the rapper Rasheeda who has published four albums.

Next up, and most head-turning, since it's sung by a man, is "I Hear You Knockin'" by Bobby Warren from the Pioneers And Legends album (Kon-Kord, 2006). Bobby Warren has two albums out: I Slipped Up (Kon-Kord, 2005) and Pioneers and Legends (Kon-Kord, 2006).

The Bobby Warren version of "I Hear You Knockin,'" although I've only heard a sound sample, is in many ways the most interesting, if you're a devotee of this song. Not only is it sung by a man, but musically, it seems to push the song to another level.

Which brings up the paradox of "I Hear You Knockin'". Despite multiple releases by a variety of artists and producers, not one has ever achieved even modest success. By any--even chitlin' circuit-level--expectations, the song is an also-ran.

And yet, it has a resonance with the audience that makes it a potential classic. "I Hear You Knockin'" won't go away, one or another of its many versions popping up here and there again and again, gaining another handful of eager and curious recruits for what must be by now a rag-tag army of fans.

Which begs the ultimate question. Does the fault lie in the music? The melody is not much to write home about. The rhythm is fairly run-of-the-mill.

Or does it lie in the artists, none of whom has stirred the Southern Soul waters?

The lyrics--again by chitlin' circuit standards--are obviously superb.

What fascinates anyone who has heard Southern Soul's "I Hear You Knockin'" is that strong whiff of revenge that makes Clint Eastwood-style Westerns and action-thrillers so intoxicating.

The women singing "I Hear You Knockin'"--Mystery Lady, Queen Isabella, Rasheeda--are "inviters" of confrontation. They stir up some primordial response in women, and what stirs women is bound to stir men.

--Daddy B. Nice


**************************

Daddy B. Nice's Original Critique:

The fan of Southern Soul doesn't really appreciate a singer like Queen Isabella and a song like "I Hear You Knocking"--a song, in other words, in the rough-and-tumble style of Barbara Carr and Peggy Scott-Adams--until he or she takes a vacation from the music and returns to listen to it fresh. That's when Queen Isabella's unpolished sound feels as essential to the ear and heart as fried potatoes to a hungry stomach.

That "unpolished" sound--directly descended from under-exposed R&B pioneers like Ann Rabson, Ruth Brown and, ultimately, Bessie Smith--is a rare and precious commodity. Mind you, I'm not talking about a guitar-driven, blues style such as Queen Isabella musters on straight-blues workouts like "Wake Up Daddy" and "Learnin' How To Cheat On You" from the Loving A Married Man CD.

The CD is split just about evenly between such blues tracks and chitlin' circuit-style R&B tunes. "I Hear You Knocking" is the headliner of the latter, mining the R&B tradition of Barbara Carr's "As Long As You Were Cheating" and Denise LaSalle's "Five Below Zero (In My Bed)."

In doing so, Queen Isabella's "I Hear You Knocking" perpetuates one of richest themes in adult rhythm and blues: the maligned woman who turns against her man with all the vengeance and wrath the "tender" sex can muster.

"Baby, I hear you knocking,
But I can't stop to let you in.
You see, right now I'm a little too busy.
I'm making love to your best friend."

Indeed, once love has flipped over into hate, the process doesn't end. The "hate" stage is usually transmuted to yet another emotional level--that of sheer indifference--a response guaranteed to leave even the strongest man's ego in disarray.

"Right now my head is in a spin.
He's taking my body
To places you ain't never been.

Baby,he's making love to me,
Over and over
From my head to my feet."

Barbara Carr, Denise LaSalle, and Peggy Scott-Adams are the contemporary masters, or mistresses, of this particular Southern Soul persona. Carr, LaSalle and Scott-Adams, however, are seasoned and maturing stars whose output is bound to ebb in the coming years, so the delightfully named Queen Isabella's emergence is especially fortuitous. She possesses a humor and authenticity money can't buy.

--Daddy B. Nice


About Queen Isabella

Not to be confused with Cajun music star Queen Ida ("Comment Ce Va," "Papa On The Fiddle"), Queen Isabella is a rhythm and blues performer with a straight-blues pedigree. Her namesake, Queen Isabella of Spain, was the 15th century monarch whom Columbus petitioned to sponsor his trans-oceanic discovery of America.

Queen Isabella's debut CD, Loving A Married Man, appeared in 2001 on Kon-kord Records, a small Los Angeles-based record label specializing in blues and gospel (Rue Davis, Patti Sterling, etc.) The single from the CD, "I Hear You Knocking," received Deep South radio play well into 2002.

Van Wilson, Hense Powell and Estus Patterson collaborated as producers and musicians on the LP, and Patterson in particular was a guiding force. Patterson, Powell and White are listed as composers of two of the CD's most prominent tracks, "Big Hearted Woman" and "You're Taylor Made." "Big Hearted Woman" in particular, with its lyric, "I'm a big-hearted woman/ With a heart of gold," proved an apt vehicle and accurate description for Isabella.



Song's Transcendent Moment

"You see, right now
He's got me in a spin.
He's taking my body to places
That you've never been."


Tidbits

1. Nov. 11, 2006. New female artist Rasheeda has recorded yet another cover of Queen Isabella's song, "I Hear You Knocking."

2. October 1, 2008. With no new product in almost seven years, Queen Isabella now more than ever deserves the title "one-hit wonder" for her oft-covered and more often-copied song, "I Hear You Knocking."

3. July 1, 2009. From Daddy B. Nice's Mailbag:

Looking For A Song Again: "I Hear You Knocking"

Hi Daddybnice,

I'm n need of ur help again
I heard this song and it goes like this: I hear u knocking baby but i cant let u in im 2 busy making love 2 ur best friend, we change the locks we dont want 2 be disturb, hes taking my body places it has neva been- so if u can help me out again i would truly appreciate it by giving me the artist( i know a female sing it)

Thank you so much

Shelley

Daddy B. Nice replies:

Dear Shelley:

The artist who performed this song--"I Hear You Knocking"--is Queen Isabella. A one-hit wonder for the artist in 2001 on the Kon-Kord label (Queen Isabella's Loving A Married Man CD), the song has become something of a Southern Soul classic (Daddy B. Nice's #91-ranked Southern Soul Single). You may also have heard a cover of the song that came out in 2006 by a new female artist named Rasheeda.

Daddy B. Nice

An alert reader adds:

Dear Daddy B. Nice,

There are two other artists that recorded the song "I Hear You Knocking". The best version of this song (my opinion), is by The Mystery Lady (writer of the song). I think it is on the cd Super Soul Club Hits (on the Mardi Gras label) this is a remix or remake of the original version from her cd: "Midnight Run" (Monaco label). It has also been recorded by Queen Isabella's label mate Bobby Warren on his cd.

I hope this helps. A local radio dj has been playing this song regularly for at least the last 5 years.

Sincerely,
P.K.


If You Liked. . . You'll Love

If you loved Etta James' "Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)," you'll be enthralled by Queen Isabella's "I Hear You Knocking."


Honorary "B" Side

"Big Hearted Woman"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Hear You Knocking by  Queen Isabella
I Hear You Knocking


CD: Loving A Married Man
Label: Kon-Kord

Sample or Buy
Loving A Married Man


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Big Hearted Woman by  Queen Isabella
Big Hearted Woman


CD: Loving A Married Man
Label: Kon-Kord

Sample or Buy
Loving A Married Man


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Cold Hearted Man by  Queen Isabella
Cold Hearted Man


CD: Loving A Married Man
Label: Kon-Kord

Sample or Buy
Loving A Married Man


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy fffff by  Queen Isabella
fffff


CD: Loving A Married Man



3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Juke Joint Woman by  Queen Isabella
Juke Joint Woman


CD: Loving A Married Man
Label: Kon-Kord

Sample or Buy
Loving A Married Man


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy You're Taylor Made by  Queen Isabella
You're Taylor Made


CD: Loving A Married Man
Label: Kon-Kord

Sample or Buy
Loving A Married Man


2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Learnin' How To Cheat On You by  Queen Isabella
Learnin' How To Cheat On You


CD: Loving A Married Man
Label: Kon-Kord

Sample or Buy
Loving A Married Man


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