Friday Five: Jezebel

Juli Thanki | February 5th, 2010

I’m no biblical scholar, but I’m vaguely familiar with the Old Testament figure of Jezebel. You know, Ahab’s wife–the painted Baal-worshiper who was defenestrated and eaten by dogs. (There’s a New Testament Jezebel too, but we’ll ignore her.) Over the years, poor Jezebel has become cultural shorthand for “manipulative skank.” This week we’ll be looking at songs about both versions of Jezebel: the woman in the Old Testament and the cultural symbol.

  • Woman King5. “Jezebel (LP Version)” – Iron & Wine

    If you’re not listening to the folk stylings of Iron & Wine, aka Sam Beam, aka Jamey Johnson’s brother in beardyness, you’re missing out. Here he takes a progressive view of the Old Testament figure, singing “Who’s seen Jezebel?/She was born to be the woman we could blame/Make me a beast half as brave/I’d be the same.”

  • Ashgrove4. “Sinful Daughter” – Dave Alvin

    Jezebel is just one of three Biblical women Alvin sings about here, women who’ve been “banished and branded, force to wander.” As always when it comes to Dave Alvin, there’s some badass guitar on this song. Co-writer Shannon McAnally does a lovely solo version below.

  • Miss Fortune3. “Hey Jezebel” – Allison Moorer

    Moorer lays the verbal smackdown—and threatens a physical one—on a high-heeled hussy after her man on this alt-country toetapper. Well, I suppose if you mess with Steve Earle, you get what’s coming to you.

  • Gene Vincent2. “Jezebel” – Gene Vincent

    The rockabilly luminary covered this Frankie Laine hit about a faithless lover for 1956 LP Blue Jean Bop. Vincent sure makes it sound like a pre-murder ballad, singing “if ever a pair of eyes promised paradise/Deceiving me, grieving me, leaving me blue/Jezebel it was you” with barely restrained menace.

  • 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Che1. “Jezebel” – Chely Wright

    “Jezebel,” the second single from 2001’s Never Love You Enough, topped out at #23 on the charts. The music video—which involves a voodoo doll and Wright in a series of bizarre, fringy, midriff-baring outfits, one of which includes a Carmen Sandiego-esque hat—definitely deserves watching, though it does raise one question: why does she forgive her straying man at the video’s end? After all, it takes two to do the Tempur-Pedic Tango.

  1. Jon
    February 5, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Now, Juli, I’m hoping that it was purely ignorance that caused you to miss the head-and-shoulders-above-all-others “Jezebel,” namely the Golden Gate Quartet number brought into the country realm by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver on the Heavenly Treasures album.

    By the way, if I remember correctly, Chely Wright’s “Jezebel” features an all-too-rare harmony vocal appearance by Barry Bales. And check out the songwriter credits!

  2. Juli
    February 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Jon, every time I try to bring a gospel album into my home, it bursts into flames. It’s the weirdest thing…

  3. Matt B.
    February 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm


    The great Marcus Hummon co-wrote it with Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus…

  4. Kelly
    February 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Juli – there’s your proof that God exists, what more do you need :-)

  5. Leeann Ward
    February 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Funny, Kelly!

    Thanks for fitting “defenestrate” into your intro.:) It’s not used nearly enough.

  6. Rick
    February 5, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I’d say my favorite Jezebel in country music is the gal that Loretta Lynn is directing “Fist City” to! Now that’s the true country way to deal with such a situation! (lol)

    PS – I thought “defenestrate” was what Odumbo has been doing to our military forces! Well, he has been throwing our military weapons programs out the window, so I guess it fits! That’s just freakin’ awesome…

  7. Erik
    February 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    It is indeed fascinating how you manage to bring up “Odumbo” in every single thread, Rick.

  8. J.D.
    February 5, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Here’s a song, “Jezebel,” by the great Gretchen Peters:

  9. Rick
    February 5, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Erik said: “It is indeed fascinating how you manage to bring up “Odumbo” in every single thread, Rick.”

    Yes, I’m just trying to be consistent and predictable…(lol)

  10. Paul W Dennis
    February 6, 2010 at 6:07 am

    What !! No Jezebel by Frankie Laine – a huge pop hit in the early 1950s ? The Gene Vincent version !

    As much as I like Chely’s song,Frankie’s song is THE Jezebel. Frankie Laine was definitely the “King of Dramatic Interpretation”

  11. luckyoldsun
    February 9, 2010 at 1:18 am

    You beat me to the punch on that one.
    Frankie Laine had the definitive versions of “Jezebel,” “Ghost Riders In the Sky,” “You Gave Me a Mountain”–and “Lucky Old Sun” among others, along with all the great cowboy movie themes! (And he also had the hits with “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Rambling Man” and “Hey Good Lookin'”

    Funny thing is a lot of people think Laine was country singer, but his hits were all on the pop charts and Nashville never accepted him.

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