150 Favorite Songs, #149: Prodigal Daughter, Michelle Shocked
This album came out in 1992, when I was ten years old. My parents listened to it (and all Michelle Shocked) a whole lot, but the only song that really got stuck in my consciousness was this one. The story of the “prodigal daughter,” pregnant by some version of the celebrated prodigal son, “bringing such shame to the family name” while her male counterpart is thrown a party. It aludes to the “Cotton Eyed Joe” as a synonym for the prodigal son, and then segues into a rousing fiddle version of the classic tune.
Sure, it’s a simplistic way to talk about gender inequality, but for a kid it was incredibly effective and affecting. I am pretty sure that contemplating this song was the very first time I really thought about feminism. It served as a kind of Aesop’s Fable for double standards, and I remember thinking, while listening to it, “I will never put up with this.” Thanks, Michelle!