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Wanda Jackson: Down, Dirty And Dynamic

With Jack White's assistance, Wanda Jackson sings a timeless lover's lament in "Like a Baby."
Courtesy of the artist
With Jack White's assistance, Wanda Jackson sings a timeless lover's lament in "Like a Baby."

The song sounds as if it's being performed in a two-bit strip joint: pounding drum, triplets tapped out on the piano, wailing sax, blurting trumpet and a lady singer with a raspy croak. Only that's no ordinary lady — it's the queen of rockabilly, 73-year-old Wanda Jackson, singing "Like a Baby" with the same kind of tough-girl grit that made her a star in the '50s and '60s, when she famously found herself falling down, down, down into a "Funnel of Love."

In 2011, Jackson is still falling for the wrong kind of guy in her songs. As the title indicates, she depended on him "like a baby," and those relationships never end well: "The day I found that you lied, how I broke down and cried like a baby."

Half a century ago, "Like a Baby" was sung by a man whom Jackson dated briefly, who went by the name Elvis Presley. But for all the history wrapped up in the song, it's also a testament to a man who's done right by Jackson: The White Stripes' Jack White, who crafted a dynamically down-and-dirty rockabilly sound for Jackson's fine new comeback album, The Party Ain't Over.

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Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.