august 2008

A Sanctuary For the Selfless

Marion LoGuidice Goes To A Healing Place in God's House

By David McGee


When entering Marion LoGuidice's God's House, be prepared to consider love, but not necessarily in the expected manner. Instead, think of love beyond the confines of romance, though it is there as well.

Love, in this instance, takes many forms, as it usually does. But in God's House, the themes are love denied, love lost, obsessive love, love as healer, love refused, love rejected. Apropos of the subject matter, the subtext informing all these observations and communiqués is the characters' spiritual quest to reconcile their feelings with the greater purpose of their lives. "We're all scrambling for light while others are digging for where they belong...and doors appear where there used to be walls and open to rooms you never knew before/And you think to yourself while you're humming along/This is where I belong" is how she articulates one aspect of the journey in the majestic opening number, "My Song," which begins with a lone, strummed acoustic guitar riff and systematically unfolds into a beautiful, hymn-like charge seasoned with soaring strings, forceful keyboards, soothing background sighs from a female chorus and jabs of electric guitar amidst a solid percussive thrust. Over this LoGuidice employs her expressive, slightly husky voice in a bravura display of intense feeling, but with an assured feel for the nuances of emotion she's exploring in her lyrics. As a statement of purpose, "My Song" is compelling, the ideal setup for an album that looks to find hope within some dark shadows of the human drama.

No mere songs, these, however, In her official bio, the artist describes her songwriting process as being one of "leaving the topside world that we live in and entering into a sacred place-a place where some kind of healing goes on that isn't so obvious. For me it feels like God's house. I believe that healing one's heart is an inside job, and once you find the right kind of support-people who understand the kind of endurance and strength it takes to heal-you must share the gifts of that journey."

If one senses a certain urgency in the bristling energy LoGuidice brings to this, her second album, then that's as it should be. God's House, which follows her self-released 2003 debut Mother Wheel, continues an outburst of long-repressed creativity that LoGuidice finally had the courage to unleash when she hit age 40. A native New Yorker (from Long Beach, Long Island) who recently moved upstate with her husband and young daughter to Croton-On-Hudson after many years in Manhattan, LoGuidice, a yoga instructor in her other life, has found an outlet in art that she denied herself for most of her adult life, while she, as she puts it, "traveled broken." Who'da thunk all this would be spurred by something she saw on The Howard Stern TV show? Yes, that Howard Stern.

"I just started writing and singing five years ago," she explains. "I never opened my mouth to sing or to write until after I had my daughter and I was turning 40. What happened? I was really moved by this woman on the Howard Stern show. I was up late one night watching Howard Stern and eating cheese doodles and going, 'God, is this it?' I had my baby and I always felt that there was something my soul came here to do and I wasn't doing because I knew I didn't have enough inner strength to stay standing. I just didn't have that kind of internal support to get behind it. I didn't even know what it was. I didn't even go there. I didn't question what that feeling was.

"What really came first was this desire to be in harmony with the very deep truth in me. That was the first thing that got resurrected that was laying dead inside of me."

"One night I saw this woman, an older woman, and she hadwritten a song that Natalie Imbruglia had recorded and it was a Top 10 single. She sang it the way she had written it, which was slow and smoky, but the way it was recorded was very like pop. I was so moved by her, and the spirit inside the song she was singing. And it awakened that in me. So I would say that what really came first was this desire to be in harmony with the very deep truth in me. That was the first thing that got resurrected that was laying dead inside of me."

Thus every song on God's House is imbued with what LoGuidice calls "a sacred kind of energy field. When you travel broken for years, with no one to tell you what to do with the brokenness and you're pouring the worst medicine into the worst wounds, each song I wrote, not knowing it, became medicine to heal this broken part of myself. And so each song became a little vertebrae in this new backbone-but I didn't know that. I just followed the call. I can only say this in retrospect, because I didn't know what was happening. I just felt like, okay, I'm leaving my daughter with her diaper completely loaded. This became like a mad priority, and nobody knew what I was doing or where I was going. My husband didn't know. I would just go off into a room, or go park myself in a corner in Starbucks and plug in my earphones-I don't play an instrument so I write all my songs on an Omnichord and take it to my guitar player. So I'd sit and hammer out all of these songs, wherever I was. It's a very sacred act."

This awareness of the spirituality imbuing her artistic process took LoGuidice to some interesting places, some she actually had visited earlier in her life, some she could only imagine from secondary sources. As per the latter, one of the album's most dramatic songs, and one so resonant today, given the ongoing rehabilitation of the subject's reputation, is the roiling, thundering, rock-fueled "Mary," based on LoGuidice's reading of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. With a scorching guest vocal by Cyndi Lauper, the Mary of "Mary" demands to be recognized by the man she loves, even though He implores (over a Beatles-ish backwards tape loop), "Mary, I'm no longer the man I was/and you must become my messenger of love/You are the woman I love/Mary, oh, Mary..." before Lauper comes in as the voice of Mary, howling her anguish at the injustice visiting her.

LoGuidice has made a serious study of Mary Magdalene's legend. The available texts, plus some common sense about relationships on her part, yields this first person account of a woman who rages at the inevitability and inequity of her fate. "I always identified with Mary Magdalene because I believe that Jesus would never have been able to do what he did unless there was a strong woman behind him," LoGuidice says. "When Jesus he was a man before he became this Godlike character in the story, I believe Mary did open His heart, and that that's what moved Him to the next level, that was part of His advancement; part of His karma was to fall in love with her and He needed her just as much as she needed Him. Just think about politics, and these politicians from the old boys' club, and think how stultifying it is for a woman who's got ideas that break out of the burn of conformity. I identified with her. She was up against such tribal pressure at that time. There was no woman's voice, and now there is. So I feel like, even though we are in a society where women have their voice, so often if you come out and you say what you really feel and you say it in a way that is impassioned, you're more often than not, depending on whom you're saying it to, saying too much, or you're a big mouth, you shouldn't have said that - all that kind of stuff. I feel like that's sort of what happened to Her. They took her good hearted actions, all of her passion, her life's investment in Christ and reduced it down to nothing."

Amidst the seductive country sway fueling the sweet nothings of "He Knows" and the angry rock stomp driving the incendiary passions erupting from the particulars of a dead-end relationship in "There You Go" ("All you see in me/Is what I hate in you"), LoGuidice explores two dramatic scenes from her life. In the lullabye-like "Mr. Brown," she recounts an attempt to adopt a sick baby born to and abandoned by an addicted mother, and how her love was denied not by the child, with whom she formed an intense bond, but by the bureaucracy of adoption; in the quiet, moody soundscape of "Laurie," she recounts a passionate friendship with a childhood friend born to abusive parents, who was so wounded she couldn't accept love, even from her best friend.

"Oh, yeah. 'Mr. Brown.' This is when I was around 30 and I was really depressed and really heartbroken, and I knew that. All I did was teach my yoga classes, come home and crawl into bed and get up when I had to do another one. I was that depressed. I knew that what I needed to do was the opposite of what I felt like doing. My friend said they have this program at St. Luke's Hospital, which is right next to St. John the Divine Cathedral, where you could go and hold these babies who are born to crack addicts. I said, 'Really? That's what I need to do.' I need to hold my inner baby. So I did that. I went there thinking it was going to be filled with women like me. But it wasn't. There was no one there. There was me and two elderly women from Harlem we called Grandma Andy and Grandma Pearl. I walked into like a room of eight or nine babies, crying, needing to be fed, I didn't know how to do any of that stuff. These women were tempered like steel and I was like, 'Oh, my God!' They basically said, This is life, baby, you have to be part of the solution. So I was doing that, going every day at like 12 o'clock, for almost a month. I couldn't wait to get there. I felt like I was being so fed. Then one day they brought in this little boy named Mr. Brown, who was a little hardier than the other ones, because the other ones were four and a half pounds. This one was maybe five pounds, seemed a little hardier. He had such a joyous spirit, and I really bonded with this baby instantly. I couldn't wait to get there and sing to him, change his diaper. I felt like he was really responding to me, where the other ones couldn't really respond. I guess they were more troubled, I don't know. After three or four weeks, I wanted to adopt this baby. I knew nothing about the system. So I talked to Grandma Andy and Pearl and they said, 'Go down and talk to welfare service on the second floor." They had an office in the hospital. I went in and basically was blown off. The woman knew I was there and I wanted this baby, and she was saying, 'You have to get into the system. No one gets to pick their baby.' I said, 'But I want that baby.' She said, 'You're not going to get that baby. He's been placed.' So that was it. And it was really hard."

"Mr. Brown" is a story of love offered, but denied by powers beyond LoGuidice's control. "Laurie" finds the subject herself rejecting her friend's unconditional love, her personal circumstances so devoid of any semblance of same that she can no more relate to it than embrace it. Marion met Laurie when both were in kindergarten, and into their 20s they "hung out every single day" and became inseparable, so close they could finish each other's sentences and knew what each was feeling at any given moment. In reminiscing about her friendship with Laurie, LoGuidice, who normally articulates her words precisely and takes great care to say what she means, allows the wild child New Yorker in her to resurface for a moment, saying, "If you were mad at Laurie, you were gonna have a problem wit' me."

And then one day, Laurie was gone. Just like that. Still, "Laurie" ends on a positive note, with a heartfelt expression of gratitude to her for demonstrating something important about love, even in denying it for herself.

"She was like my first intimate relationship. We weren't lovers, but we were like a married couple. And when she left, I went through this horrible, horrible grieving process. I didn't even know who I was without running it by Laurie. I had to sort of rise up from the ashes of that and I really understood the energy field of somebody who had the potential to do that. So when I started dating, I knew, uh-oh, I'm not investing my heart here. I know this feeling. So she became almost like a protective angel. Even though Laurie and I were inseparable, she was really broken."

Asked whether writing isn't really a matter of survival for her, LoGuidice concurs, explaining, "If I didn't write songs I'd have no home place. I'm like a mermaid and that's my ocean, going into the writing process. When things start to get dried and cracked, I can submerge myself into that creative process and retrieve, most of the time, some kind of healing."

But in her art LoGuidice finds another, life-affirming mission: reaching out to other women who have traveled the same broken path as she, and encouraging their creative impulses as a means of self-definition and a route to self-worth. Although she has played high-profile venues such as Joe's Pub in Manhattan, she more frequently performs in private homes for small groups, where the message is more immediate and unfiltered in an intimate setting. When her daughter was attending an elite private school, Marion met innumerable mothers who envied her musical aspirations and voiced their own frustrations with the course of their programmed lives. "All of these moms are like Harvard, Princeton, Wellesley, a whole different upbringing from mine. And they have a lot of reverence for the intellect. They're lawyers, they all have some kind of title. And then there was me. What I found was that the ones I became really close to, the reason why we became close is because they were dying to do what I'm doing. They all really came here to be creative, but they were reared to be the top partner in Citicorp. And then they would sneak off with me and talk about things that nobody else in their life knew about-like their desire to take a watercolor class or to sing or to play an instrument. I had none of that kind of baggage because nobody cared what I did, really. I mean, my parents didn't even know if I went to school or not. I was in the back of the school selling joints most of the time - it was about making money and the social situation."

loguidiceWith that, doors appear where there used to be walls, leading to the sanctuary God's house offers the selfless. "I feel like I am inspiring these women to awaken whatever their truth is and to live in that, and just to start over. I've received these e-mails and I just feel like that makes it so much more of a sacred ground for me, and that was always my hope—that I could give back what was given to me. I had no support when I was doing this. But now I'm in my world, and I'm sort of the first one who did it, so I really know how to support people who want to do it and step out on that road."




Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024