Renée Geyer was many things in a career that spanned 15 studio albums and 50 years, and she continued singing to packed houses up to only a month ago. She was surely the finest white soul singer, male or female, that Australia has produced, but to speak only of her immense talent does not capture what she was about; her real greatness.
Geyer was, above all, unapologetic. It was this attitude that defined her, as much as her singing. Paul Kelly, who became a close friend, recognised it when he wrote Difficult Woman for her, knowing full well how she would respond. Women, after all, are always the ones thought to be difficult, never men.
But line by line Geyer peeled the song apart, exposing the vulnerability beneath the steel of the titular character. The singer and actor Lo Carmen, in her fine 2022 book Lovers Dreamers Fighters, wrote that “she wore the title like a crown” in the knowledge that it would come at great cost. Indeed, it already had.
Difficult Woman was released in 1994, and it relaunched Geyer’s career in Australia after nearly a decade living in Los Angeles. But Geyer’s transformative presence had been apparent 20 years earlier, with her third single, a heart-stopping rendition of James Brown’s It’s A Man’s Man’s World.… Read more..