Whether wailing with her multi-octave pipes and rhythmically pumping piano in nightclubs and at blues festivals, or every Sunday morning at Oakland’s Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, Lady Bianca infuses her songs with breathtaking urgency.
Born in Kansas City, raised in San Francisco and based in Oakland, she has worked with such stars as Jon Hendricks, Sly Stone, Frank Zappa and Van Morrison, but has focused for the past 33 years on writing and recording original tunes with her husband, Oakland R&B veteran Stanley Lippitt.
“I do the music; Stanley does the lyrics,” she explains. “Sometimes the chicken comes before the egg, and sometimes the egg is already there and the chicken just arranges it.”
“He sings melodies to me, but they’re never what I like. By the time I get through with it, he really likes it. He always works it to make me happy; that’s a song title in itself,” she says.
Lady Bianca, as she’s known in both clubs and the church, makes little distinction between blues and gospel music. She fondly remembers taking the bus across the Bay with her family to the Oakland Auditorium to see such gospel stars as the Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Staple Singers, Clara Ward, the Gospel Harmonettes, and the Soul Stirrers featuring Sam Cooke.
She cites Aretha Franklin’s secular debut recording, 1960’s “Today I Sing the Blues,” as a major influence on her style.
Bianca made her first recording in 1970 at age 17 with saxophonist-keyboardist Quinn Harris. She later appeared on one album by Sly & the Family Stone, one by Zappa and five by Morrison. She has recorded seven albums of her own since 1996, five of them for her and her husband’s Magic-O label.
She opens her most recent album, last year’s “Real People Music,” with an original soul ballad titled, “You’ll Be Leaving with Her” that includes an extended monologue about having a rough day at work and how she can’t wait to get home to her husband’s loving arms.
“My man is so good to me,” she states. “You know, just the other day he bought me a new mink coat, and it wasn’t even Christmas, it wasn’t my birthday and it sure wasn’t our anniversary.”
Upon arriving home, she hears voices upstairs. She thinks it’s the television at first but soon discovers him in bed with her best friend. Bianca then breaks into song, telling him to get up, get dressed and get out.
“Don’t forget your picture, too. I don’t want anything to remind me of you,” she sings.
Bianca will appear at the Apple Blossom Festival in Sebastopol on Sunday, April 19, and will perform in a tribute to Billie Holiday at Stanford University on Sunday, July 12. She can be heard on Sundays at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, 1188 12th Street, Oakland. Services begin at 10 a.m.