Nellie McKay, singer-songwriter-activist

by | Apr 29, 2015

Nellie McKay — singer-songwriter-activist and true Renaissance woman—discusses her adopted pit bull, Bessie, which gives way to addressing her longstanding zeal for the importance of adopting shelter dogs over buying or breeding dogs. Noting that she had just sat in on a high school class in which the students didn’t know Ralph94b97c7d-09da-4895-ad44-f45f47c3a24 Nader, Tom Waits and a number of other figures, both historical and contemporary, she opines that the Internet represents a decidedly mixed bag informationally for school kids. McKay responds to my description of her as an “artistically restless spirit,” referring not only to her six disparate and highly acclaimed albums, but her array of other creative endeavors, including starring on 6973633443_7d18fea3c8Broadway and off-Broadway, contributing music to film and TV and writing for The New York Times Book Review. This leads to a detailed conversation about her album, “My Weekly Reader,” in which she covers 13 protest songs and other gems from the 60s, with some focus on her reading of “Murder In My Heart For The Judge”—the Moby Grape song (though many may 81OG6oDMn9L._SL1500_be more familiar with the Three Dog Night version)—in which she adds a mostly spoken interlude dotted with everything from chants protesting Ag-Gag laws, to references to the exonerated police officers in the deaths of the black men in Ferguson and New York, which practically begs for an update to include the developments in Baltimore. Other parts of our wide-ranging chat touch on Beatles producer Geoff Emerick, who produced “My Weekly Reader” (and her debut record), David Letterman, her efforts on behalf of the campaign to get horse-drawn carriages off the streets of New York City, and more. (

COMEDY CORNER: Tom Papa’s “Pet People” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Nellie McKay’s version of “Murder In My Heart For The Judge,” Jim White’s “Bluebird,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: David Bowie’s “Cat People”


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