“That’s What They Say”
Jeff Healey Band (1988)
Not released as a single
Recommended source: See the Light
When Jeff Healey came into the spotlight in the late eighties, he was the latest in a long line of white hot white blues guitarists–the hook being that, like a lot of first generation black bluesmen, he was blind.
What really marked him off, though, was his singing, a dry, meticulous baritone that made him one of the last great blue-eyed soulsters.
Though he had only one big hit (the great “Angel Eyes”), the voice said he might have done better in earlier times.
And, whatever the times, why the record company didn’t release “That’s What They Say” as a followup single from his debut album is one of those mysteries only a record company executive could answer.
Well, and maybe all those people who thought the new ballad style, embodied by Whitney Houston, had something to do with gospel or soul.
Album cut or no, “That’s What They Say” has only grown for me over the can’t-believe-it’s-been-three-decades since. Unlike “Angel Eyes,” stunning in its own right, Healey wrote it and, as a work of lyric imagination, it was on a level with the polio-stricken Doc Pomus writing “Save the Last Dance For Me.”
As a example of blues paranoia, it sounds like a creeping future we hoped would never arrive….but, inevitably, did.
Until I started researching this post, I didn’t know Healey had passed away in 2008. I think one reason I was a little shocked was because, in his best music, recorded in an age that defined hype and bluster, he sounded like he had all the time in the world….