Esther Satterfield, the Vulnerable Voice

Back in the 70’s, one of my favourite music listening choices was Chuck Mangione.  Chuck is an expert flugelhorn (like a trumpet) artist, but also very good at arranging broader music compositions much greater than his flugelhorn prowess.

Here’s Chuck back in the day:


One of his greatest, and unsung, achievements was to bring into his productions a female vocal artist by the name of Esther Satterfield.

I listened to three of Esther’s songs in the 70’s and was thunderstruck by her sound.  Something stuck a chord.  Her sound was special and something about it was unusually vulnerable. You may agree if you listen to the three songs linked here. And that’s the point of this post……the vulnerability of Esther’s voice.

Did Esther rise to stardom after that?  Not at all.  She got married, raised a family and still hasn’t re-emerged into the public.  Her daughter does respond to some public forums, but Esther has chosen a private life.  Too bad for those of us who found something important in her voice and the lyrics she sung.

There is something to this story that is untold, and perhaps will always be untold.  Esther, can you come out again?  If not, we can accept that.

Here is what I can find in the public sphere on Esther’s songs:

This is one of her best.  Land of Make Believe based on Wizard of Oz. (warning, this one is about 12 minutes.  The following two songs are much shorter).

I love these lyrics in this song with a veiled reference to MLK:

“In your world there was a King
He once said, “I have a dream,”
Now there’s a man who knew
The secret.”

Here is my favourite…called “Soft”:

And this is her best if you want to experience the beautiful vulnerability of her voice:

Esther, you produced something special.  If you can come back, you have a lot of supporters.  If your choice is anonymity, it is well respected and thank you for your work that has been recorded.

I hope my readers enjoy her work!   After all “what is there to fear from the darkness that surrounds us……as long as we’re together?”.


6 thoughts on “Esther Satterfield, the Vulnerable Voice

  1. After listening to 2 cuts, I have to agree that Esther has something special without all the somewhat cheap chirps that many artists feel compelled to throw in as if to impress. So it would seem she’s ‘singing herself’ through the words and melodies of other hearts.

    When you wrote of Esther here, Bruce, instantly I was reminded of three other female singers: E. C. Scott, Phoebe Snow, and Eva Cassidy.
    I saw E. C. perform in a blues venue in Edmonton in the 90s, and later got to know her by email. A very large black woman, she had huge stage presence, and a good band, but as hip-hop and rap took over, she was shoved to the shadows and had to scramble to put out another CD. I lost contact and never did find out: on her Masterpiece CD, she did a great Sledgehammer cover (that Peter Gabriel made famous in the 70s and 80s).
    Another black woman, Phoebe quickly became a jazz singer of great tone and delivery with a wonderful almost baritone thing that came naturally in her lower registers. She became a credible performer over the years, but as jazz is much less appreciated genre, for sure she never reached popularity of the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga.
    Eva, a young white woman who sang blues, jazz, folk and country, some old classics and some new: the point is that her tone was simply wonderful, so clear and almost sparkling, and quite different from most other singers since the 60s. Eva died of cancer around the age of 30 at least a couple decades ago just as her career was taking off in some of the upscale small venues in NA. Too bad.

    A further point here is this: we can marvel at these and other performers, yes, and yet as hard fortune and death can steal them from us, what is to be learned about all this?

    • I remember Phoebe Snow and wonder what happened to her. She definitely had something special about her voice. Another one who came and practically disappeared was Melanie (“Brand New Key”). She also had a sort of delicate, sensitive sound.

  2. I have listened to Esther on Land of Make Believe since I first heard it in the 80’s. One of the best voices out there. It is a shame she didn’t remain in the business!

  3. Wow I thought I was alone. I heard her voice in the 1970’s and wondered how that voice did not rule the world. Living a normal life was probably the right road for Ms Satterfield but it denied the world of more beautiful music. The Land of Make Believe was a life altering song

    • Regarding mainstream appeal, I think that as unique individuals, certain sounds penetrate our psyche/souls more than other sounds which is probably why her voice didn’t go mainstream as it may not have appealed to a wider audience. Just my guess….all I know is that after all these years, I can bring up that sound in my mind anytime and as clear as if I was hearing it on a recording.

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