Norma Tanega’s I’m the Sky: Studio and Demo Recordings, 1964–1971 is a comprehensive survey of the pioneering folk artist’s two commercially released studio albums, an unreleased album, and a trove of unheard demos. Before playing a pivotal part in folk music’s cultural crossover in the sixties, Tanega was a curious little girl born at the very end of the thirties to a multicultural Navy family in Long Beach, California. Her parents often brought her to Los Angeles for piano lessons, and eventually Tanega earned an MFA at Claremont College, where she studied classical composers like Aaron Copeland and George Gershwin.
Amidst her academic pursuits, Tanega learned to play acoustic guitar and autoharp by following Joan Baez records and hanging out at the Folk Music Center, a music store and performance space in Claremont that exists to this day. After college, Tanega landed in Greenwich Village in 1963 and became active in the coffee house scene and early protests against the Vietnam War. Working summers as a camp counselor in the Catskill Mountains, the up-and-coming producer and arranger Herb Bernstein caught Tanega perform at the camp, and introduced her to songwriter Bob Crewe. The trio found their first collaborative success in 1966 when Tanega’s “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog” rocketed to #22 on the American and British charts. That same year, Tanega traveled to England where she toured in support of her debut full- length Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog. During rehearsals for the British music television show Ready Steady Go!, Tanega met Dusty Springfield. The pair became fast friends, then lovers and partners in a committed long-distance relationship. Tanega moved to London to be with Springfield, and went on to write and co-write a number of songs for and with Dusty.
While in London, Tanega recorded a second album, Snow Cycles, in 1969 that would never see the light of day, and I Don’t Think It Will Hurt If You Smile, eventually released with little fanfare in 1971. As heard on the first half of I’m the Sky, the same whimsical and joy-filled spirit guides all three of Tanega’s studio albums, and provides a colourful stage for her idiosyncratic meter and songwriting. Tanega’s lyrics touch on love and adoration to introspection and melancholy, while her music offers an eclectic take on popular folk-rock and psychedelic sound of the late sixties.