During a phone interview, the Oakland blues singer known as Lady Bianca tries to recall her first date with her husband and collaborator Stanley Lippitt. “When did we first go out?’ she yells to him.
“One time we went to see Purple Rain,” he says.
“What did we do after that?” she asks.
“We saw Purple Rain,” he says in a deadpan voice, and both of them start laughing into the phone.
Though Bianca might be a little fuzzy on the pair’s first official date, she has no problem remembering their first meeting. Bianca says Lippitt came to her house with a bag of pork skins and a bottle of wine after hearing her perform “Willow Weep for Me” on a radio show.
“The first thing we did was write a song together,” she says. “We were all crying about it; I think we were drunk.”
Though they titled the song “You Call Me Sweetheart,” it was a long time before they referred to one another as sweethearts. Bianca says Lippitt was all business during their first collaborations. He would take a bus ride or a walk and return to her house with a batch of song lyrics. Then she would sit behind the piano and write music to accompany his words.
After playing the piano and singing the lyrics to “You Call Me Sweetheart” into the phone, Bianca tries to tell me how she learned two foreign languages at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, which she attended on a four-year music scholarship. Lippitt shouts something in the background.
“He says I speak two languages: Money and credit cards,” Bianca says, giggling.
Once she catches her breath, Bianca gets back behind the piano to show off some of the classical training she got at the conservatory, where she studied piano and operatic vocals. She plays “Passion,” a song composed of Beethoven’s Fifth and an original R&B song. Bianca believes that the song is a good example of her classical upbringing mixing with Lippitt’s love of the hardcore blues.
“He (Lippitt) says we are like caviar and collard greens,” Bianca says.
Bianca sang background vocals for Sly & the Family Stone and Frank Zappa during the ’70s. In the early ’80s, she arranged background vocals for Van Morrison’s Beautiful Vision and Inarticulate Speech of the Heart albums.
By 1995, Bianca and Lippitt had enough original material for Lady Bianca’s debut release, Best Kept Secret. Though Bianca says she learned a lot from working with Sly, Zappa and Van Morrison, she was overjoyed to be pursuing a solo career.
Since then, Bianca has racked up accolades and awards. Her 2002 release, Rollin’, received a Grammy nomination in the blues and R&B categories. In 2002, Bianca won awards for “Best Dressed Female Vocalist” and “Best R&B Vocalist of the Year” from the Oakland Blues Society.
Bianca capped an award-filled 2002 by receiving a key to her hometown from Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. “That felt really nice for them to recognize artists that live in the city,” she says.
This past year, Lady Bianca released All By Myself, the first in a trilogy of albums that will feature Bianca singing and playing piano without a backing band. Despite the name, however, Bianca does not plan on doing anything without Lippitt.
“I enjoy him so much, I just can’t let him go,” she says.
Lady Bianca plays Sly McFly’s, 700 Cannery Row, Monterey, Saturday at 9pm. 649-8050.