Songstress Cris Williamson celebrates 'Changer' 

A great deal has changed on the entertainment landscape since a passionate alliance of young radical lesbians from Los Angeles-based Olivia Records released feminist singer-songwriter Cris Williamson's album "The Changer and the Changed" 40 years ago.

One thing hasn't: Williamson's ability to captivate an audience with her soul-stirring vocals and heartrending lyrics. The performer illuminates all of that in a 40th-anniversary concert commemorating her milestone album at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage this week.

She’ll be joined by veteran Bay Area musicians and composers Vicki Randle, Barbara Higbie, Shelley Doty and Julie Wolf.

Williamson is excited and thrilled about the event, but more in a state of wonderment: "It's a huge culmination of the work," she says. "I have mixed emotions. I just really want to do well. It's amazing to have made something that lasts this long."

Longevity is good, but the artist's work created significant shifts on a number of fronts.

"The Changer and the Changed" was a pivotal recording – lyrically soulful with wonderfully universal themes – but curiously, it wasn't a runaway hit in 1975. It was Williamson's pioneering political activism that began turning heads.

She helped galvanize the lesbian and gay community in the '70s, and in time, her work on all fronts sparked a vibrant shift in the creation of women-owned recording companies and in a genre that would be dubbed "women's music."

She also quickly became a role model for a generation hoping to make their mark in civil rights.

Williamson admits she knew she wanted to express herself through music early on.

"We are given a voice at birth, we sort of open our beak like a little bird," she says. “People go, 'Where did you get that voice?' And I think about it. I didn't get it anywhere. It pretty much came with the package. My thing was: ‘Now, what am I going to do with that gift?’"

She also exemplifies a rare, giving artistic integrity.

"The ability of singing and songwriting, and the ability to put these fluid things which we call feelings that can be received by people, has a recognizable pattern," she says. "And if audiences feel what you hoped they would feel – and maybe even more – that you have moved them, then that's important. And what's the use of any artist if the work doesn't move anybody? If it only moves you, that's not enough."

IF YOU GO

Cris Williamson

Where: Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley

When: 7 p.m. Jan. 10-11

Tickets: $42 to $46

Contact: (510) 644-2020, www.thefreight.org

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Greg Archer

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