A black-and-white photo of Irene Higginbotham, dressed in a dark jacket and ruffly collared blouse, leaning on a wooden table and looking out of frame to the right
Irene Higginbotham Credit: By Garnett Higginbotham Sr. – photosub 2014052510000766, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38611956

This summer, Reader critic Hannah Edgar wrote about Chicago singer and bandleader Christy Bennett and her research into the life of prolific Black Tin Pan Alley songwriter Irene Higginbotham (1918-1988), which led her to scour the copyright records of the Library of Congress and the archives of Brigham Young University, as well as to correspond with Higginbotham’s surviving family. Higginbotham fought for the intellectual property rights of Black songwriters, but the broken music-publishing system ended up obscuring her importance to history—even though her songs were performed by the likes of Billie Holiday (“Good Morning Heartache”), Benny Goodman (“That Did It, Marie”), Nat King Cole (“This Will Make You Laugh”), and Duke Ellington (“It’s Mad, Mad, Mad!”). In December, Bennett and her band Fumée self-released the tribute album Good Morning Heartache: The Music of Irene Higginbotham, and it’s a corker, brimming with elegant arrangements that bring the songwriter’s majestic, resonant tunes to new life. On Friday, January 13, at Constellation, Bennett and a seven-piece ensemble will tell Higginbotham’s story with a set of her songs newly arranged by bassist Ethan Philion, accompanied by video collages, live voice-overs, and pre-recorded voice-overs from Higginbotham’s nephew Marc Freeman and cousin Joe Orange.

Good Morning Heartache is the result of nearly five years of research and work.

Emerging Chicago indie band Sweet Bike combine sloppy bar punk and cheeky fourth-wave emo, and the two warp-speed tunes on their 2021 debut EP, Discography, combine jittery drums, dizzyingly cycling guitar, and heart-on-sleeve doubled-up hollering. On Friday, January 13, they’ll play Gman Tavern at a birthday bash for bassist Garrett Shafer. Garrett’s Friday the 13th Big Bad Birthday Beatdown features a ragtag crew of locals, with Totally Cashed, CalicoLoco, and Gosh Diggity joining Sweet Bike. It starts at 8 PM, and tickets are $15 ($12 in advance).

Sweet Bike call themselves “the Beach Boys’ worst nightmare.”


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