Born: Susan Claire Cowsill
May 20, 1959
Birthplace: Canton, Ohio
"We laugh the same laughter
We cry the same tears
So why all the heartache
For so many years..."
~ Susan Cowsill, Lyrics from "Wawona Morning" the album "Just Believe It."
Legendary Cowsills Family
The lovely and talented Susan Cowsill is the youngest member of the legendary family of hit songmakers, The Cowsills. They are one of the most beloved family of musicians whose legacy began in the 1960's and continues today.
The only daughter born to Bud and Barbara Cowsill, Susan began her musical career in 1967 and made her professional debut in early 1968 when she performed on The Cowsill's second album, "We Can Fly." Soon after, she made her debut solo appearance on the third Cowsills album "Captain Sad And His Ship Of Fools," singing "Ask The Children."
Big Break at Ripe Old Age
Cowsill's big break came at the tender age of nine years old. She was the youngest person in the world to contribute on a hit record with "Indian Lake." It broke into the Top 10 early 1968. Although she was relegated to playing the tambourine in her early career, Cowsill soon proved herself adept at playing other instruments, most notably guitar and bass.
She left The Cowsills (professionally) in 1971, she reunited in the latter part of the decade to record and release "Cocaine Drain" (recorded in 1978 but unreleased until 2008). Then again in the latter 90's for "Global" released in 1998.
The Psycho Sisters
In the early 1990's, Cowsill and her friend and future sister-in-law, Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist from The Bangles who married Cowsills brother, John, in 2003), performed together as The Psycho Sisters. They were enormously popular, performing in nightclubs (sometimes even in their nightgowns). Though, The Psycho Sisters have yet to officially release an album, fans of Cowsill (left) and Peterson (right) are still hopeful that one might eventuate someday.
Iconic Continental Drifters
They were also members of the iconic New Orleans Americana band The Continental Drifters, which featured a vast array of talented artists. Some of whom came and went over the course of the five albums they released, but whose personalities both shone individually on various songs or blended together in flawless harmony.
The Continental Drifters first formed in 1991 and disbanded about a decade later. During that time, some of the most soulful and heartfelt music were offered by this band, which included,; Cowsill and Peterson, Peter Holsapple (once married to Cowsill), Carlo Nuccio, Ray Ganucheau, Gary Eaton, Danny McGough, Russ Broussard (currently married to Cowsill), Mark Walton, and Robert Mache.
Nineteen Ninety Three Not a Lucky Year
The first album recorded by the band was entitled "Nineteen Ninety Three" which was an unfortunate title considering the album was shelved until 2003, because several members of the early line up (Ganucheau, Eaton, and McGough) left the band for reasons ranging from illness to geographical difficulties. Some of the musicians had to travel back and forth from Los Angeles to New Orleans and vice versa.
Cowsill, Holsapple, Peterson, Nuccio, and Walton either remained in or relocated to New Orleans permanently. "Nineteen Ninety Three" was an excellent album, but any chance of success was hindered by the shuffling around of members. And, with the three main vocalists now no longer in the band, they had no choice but to shelve it.
In 1994, The Continental Drifters released what would be their official self-titled debut album and they added Peterson and Cowsill to the roster of lead vocalists. This proved to be an excellent decision and together, with Holsapple and Nuccio, the album made the band a cultural icon and one of the most influential of its kind.
Rollicking and Scintillating
Cowsill's rollicking "Get Over It," Peterson's scintillating "Mixed Messages," and the charming trio of Holsapple, Nuccio, and Peterson for "Highway Of The Saints" are my three favourites from the album. Walton played bass on the album, but contributed no lead vocals.
By 1999, Nuccio had also left the group, and newcomers Mache and Broussard were added, giving a more stylish and elegant tone to the second album "Vermilion." Cowsill, Peterson, and Holsapple became the triumvirate of vocalists and highlights of this album included Cowsill's lilting "Rain Song" (later covered by Peterson on The Bangles 2003 reunion album "Doll Revolution"), Holsapple's poignant soliloquy "Daddy Just Wants It To Rain", and Peterson's bouncy "Watermark."
Cracks Forming All Over
In 2001, "Better Day" was released, which would prove to be the band's final official studio album. Cracks had begun to appear in the marriage of Cowsill and Holsapple, and whereas, "Continental Drifters" came on the scene like the first buds of spring, and "Vermilion" shimmered in the summery breeze, "Better Day" had a decided autumnal glow.
Though the album was also excellent in quality, the rustic picturesqueness of the first album and the sparkling polish of the second gave way to a mixture of both, which seemed patchy in terms of overall flow of the album. Yet, does not detract from the quality of the songs or performances.
Mark Walton finally got a chance to record a solo, the title track "Better Day," which was a plaintive little tune. Perhaps overshadowed by Peterson's rocking "Na Na (Story Of My Life)," Cowsill's hauntingly beautiful "Snow" and "Peaceful Waking," and the hilarious song banter "Down By The Great Mistake" performed by Peterson and Holsapple.
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is Best
Although, The Continental Drifters disbanded shortly thereafter, they also recorded "Listen, Listen," a tribute album which honoured Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson, legendary founders of the classic band, Fairport Convention.
The best performance on the album is Cowsill's brilliant cover of "I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight," which Siobhan Maher-Kennedy also covered on her solo album "Immigrant Flower."
Wawona to You Baby
Eventually, Cowsill would remarry to Russ Broussard (featured here on drums) and in 2005, she released a stunning solo album, "Just Believe It," which brought forth all of Cowsill's charm, warmth, beauty, pain, angst, happiness, and loving spirit in a brilliant collection of songs, framed within the deeply moving saga of "Wawona."
The "Wawona" installments are interspersed between the main songs, entitled "Wawona Morning," "Wawona Afternoon," "Wawona Twilight," (instrumental) and "Wawona Night", they offer an emotive portrait of how life can change through the years with alternating gentility and suffering.
Another song which touches the hearts and souls of the listener is "Nanny's Song," which explores every human being's desire to not leave this world God created for us, no matter the hardships faced by life on this earth.
Cowsill also offers upbeat, irresistably catchy tunes like "Just Believe It," and "I Know You Know," as well as the sublime cover of Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where The Time Goes," which Susanna Hoffs recently covered on her and Matthew Sweet's "Under The Covers" album.
Tragedy after Tragedy
Tragedy struck New Orleans and the Cowsill family in 2005 with the devastating Hurricane Katrina, in which Susan's beloved brother Barry Cowsill lost his life. Susan also lost another brother, Billy Cowsill to illness the following year.
Fans offer their deepest condolences and prayers for the Cowsills. They are inspired by Susan's incredibly heartwarming and courageous charitable and humanitarian efforts on behalf of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2007, Cowsill released a collection of songs performed at her extremely popular "Covered In Vinyl" concert series which pay tribute to many classic performers and albums. "Susan Cowsill Band: Live At Carrollton Station - Covered In Vinyl Series Volume 1" is an excellent homage to great music from performers, such as; Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Christine McVie, U2, The Pretenders, Paul McCartney, and Led Zeppelin.
The proceeds of this album and her popular Jazzfest offering "Crescent City Snow", went to aid noble causes like The New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund, and the Carrollton Station Fund.
In October 2008, Cowsill joined a team of talented women singers, songwriters, and poets in a global initiative to raise awareness about violence against 200,000 women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The compilation CD "Congo's Angels" is now available for pre-order at CDBaby.com. See the special charity page for more details.