Reverend Billy

Bill Talen, AKA the "Reverend Billy," is a performance artist who travels the country with the "Stop Shopping Gospel Choir" to expound against commercialism in Americans' daily lives. He met Rosalie when both lived in California. The two of them performed together in the Solo Mio Festival in San Francisco.

rev. billy and rosalie sitting on bench

Q: Describe Rosalie's performance style.
A: I would say that it's an undying, implacable rascally sense of humor that must be brought to the most egregious sorrows that life is going to bring you. I think a lot of people from a successful Rosalie Sorrels concert are going out the door with a kind of preparation for the sorrows that they will have. And in our puritanical society we're not necessarily prepared for sorrows. We're not very good at it. Grieving is one of the things we do worst in this culture. She brings that to audiences, who after all, are given a false happy ending constantly.

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Q: What have you learned from Rosalie?
A: She taught me that those labels shouldn't pull you around. You don't let the people selling records, don't let the critics, don't let people who have big words who are trying to organize you into places. I think she taught me to be interested in what you are interested in first, to cultivate your sense of fascination.

"I think a lot of people from a successful Rosalie Sorrels concert are going out the door with a kind of preparation for the sorrows that they will have."

Q: Why isn't Rosalie known by more people?
A: I think more people do know about Rosalie Sorrels. Maybe Rosalie would just say "I've got lots of friends," but there are so many towns and cities and ranches in the culture that welcome Rosalie and know her and this is a more important kind of celebrity.

Rosalie Sorrels is in this group of people that I have focused on who have reinvented celebrity. She's not the sort of celebrity who has to have a new product every four months and have a whole marketing system set up and has to go into 28 different kinds of media formats. If she did that she couldn't possibly do what she does. She has a sort of horizontal theme. It's taken from person to person to person to person in the form of story telling, in the form of soulful barter economies, how we contact each other in that way that is uncharted.

Rosalie doesn't need to have the Nielson ratings. She doesn't need to have that sort of pop measurement.