Maria McKee

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Maria McKee
June 2017 profile of Maria McKee
June 2017 profile of Maria McKee
Background information
Birth nameMaria Luisa McKee
Born (1964-08-17) August 17, 1964 (age 56)
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresPop rock, alternative rock, alternative country, rockabilly (early)
Years active1982–present
LabelsGeffen, Viewfinder/Little Diva, Eleven Thirty, Cooking Vinyl

Maria Luisa McKee (born August 17, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter. She is best known for her work with Lone Justice, her 1990 UK solo chart-topping hit "Show Me Heaven", and her song "If Love Is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)" from the film Pulp Fiction. She is the half-sister of Bryan MacLean, who was best known as a guitarist and vocalist in the band Love.[1]

Early life[edit]

Maria McKee was born in Los Angeles in 1964. She grew up in a bohemian family and is the half-sister of Bryan MacLean, who had been the guitarist and vocalist for the 1960s psychedelic band, Love (he died in 1998 at age 51).[2]


McKee was a founding member of the cowpunk and proto Americana band, Lone Justice, in 1982, with whom she released two albums. Several compilations of both previously released and unreleased material and a BBC Live in Concert album have been released since the group disbanded. Bob Dylan wrote the song "Go Away Little Boy" for the band's debut album, Lone Justice, which later appeared as a B-side. The band opened for such acts as U2 and Tom Petty. During this period of her career she was managed by Jimmy Iovine.

When she was 19, she wrote Feargal Sharkey's 1985 song, "A Good Heart", which she has since recorded and released on her album Late December. Sharkey later also covered "To Miss Someone" (from McKee's self-titled solo debut) on his third solo album "Songs From The Mardi Gras". In 1987 she appeared in the Robbie Robertson music video "Somewhere Down the Crazy River" (directed by Martin Scorsese) and contributed back-up vocals to his debut solo album, which included the song. She released her first solo, self-titled album in 1989. On the album Richard Thompson played guitar and Steve Wickham from The Waterboys played fiddle. It received critical acclaim in Europe, prompting McKee to move to Ireland.

Her song "Show Me Heaven", which appeared on the soundtrack to the film Days of Thunder, was a number one single in the UK for four weeks in 1990.[3] She rarely performed this song in public up until recently,[4] when she sang it at Dublin Pride.[5]

Her song "If Love Is a Red Dress, Hang Me in Rags" was personally selected by Quentin Tarantino for his feature film Pulp Fiction. It is the only original song on the soundtrack.

In 1992 she released the song "Sweetest Child" which was produced by Youth and featured Robert "Throb" Young from the band Primal Scream.[citation needed]

Following her debut, McKee has released five studio and two live albums. The album Life Is Sweet debuted McKee's lead guitar work described as "feral" by Mojo magazine which listed it as runner up to album of the year in their critics poll. The raw postmodern album (produced by Mark Freegard) represented a smash up of her roots rock persona and is seen as a demarcation event in her career. It is now considered a minor classic and currently out of print. The later three, High Dive, Peddlin' Dreams and Late December, were released independently via her own Viewfinder Records label (distributed in the UK via Cooking Vinyl).

In 1995, Bette Midler recorded McKee's tracks "To Deserve You" and "The Last Time" for her platinum album Bette of Roses. In 1998, The Dixie Chicks recorded McKee's "Am I the Only One (Who's Ever Felt This Way?)" and included it on their Grammy-nominated album Wide Open Spaces.[6]

McKee appears on the 2014 compilation Songs from a Stolen Spring that paired Western musicians with artists from the Arab Spring. On the album, McKee's performance of the Tony Joe White song "Ol' Mother Earth" was meshed with "I Still Exist" by the Egyptian band Massar Egbari.[7]

She recorded a medley of "Ride a White Swan" and "She Was Born to Be My Unicorn" for the Marc Bolan tribute album, Angel Headed Hipster, produced by Hal Wilner.[citation needed] The album also includes tracks by Gavin Friday, Father John Misty and Nick Cave.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Maria McKee among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[8]

Session and guest work[edit]

In addition to writing Sharkey's hit "A Good Heart", McKee has also contributed to the Victoria Williams' tribute album Sweet Relief, on the song "Opelousas (Sweet Relief)". She has also provided backing vocals to U2's cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" (B-side of 1992 "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" single from their Achtung Baby album), as well as to the Counting Crows' 1993 debut August and Everything After on "Sullivan Street" and "Mr. Jones". On Robin Zander's 1993 solo album she sang backing vocals for the track "Reactionary Girl". She also sang backing vocals on Robbie Robertson's debut and self-titled solo album, on the track "American Roulette". Much lesser known is her contribution of lead and co-lead vocals on two tracks on a contemporary Christian praise and worship album called Come As You Are.[9]

McKee also contributed a song, "Never Be You," for the soundtrack to the Walter Hill movie Streets of Fire. She recorded a duet, "Friends in Time",[10] with The Golden Horde on their eponymously titled album in 1991. She also recorded another duet, "This Road is Long," with Stuart A. Staples of the band Tindersticks on his 2006 album, Leaving Songs. In addition she co-wrote the duet, titled "Promise You Anything," with Steve Earle which appeared on his 1990 album, The Hard Way. She teamed with Dwight Yoakam for a duet on "Bury Me," from his 1986 debut, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. McKee contributed the lyrics and vocals to the song "No Big Bang" on the only album by The Heads, No Talking, Just Head, also playing guitar and synthesizer on the song together with the band, mostly ex-members of Talking Heads.[11]

In 2016, she performed the Blind Willie Johnson song, "Let Your Light Shine On Me", on the tribute album God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson.[12]

Film work[edit]

In 2013, McKee and her husband, Jim Akin, self-released their first independent feature film, After the Triumph of Your Birth, through their production company, Shootist Films. The film was written, directed, shot, recorded, and edited by Akin and features McKee (who co-produced) in her acting debut as an ensemble cast member. They scored the film together and the soundtrack was released in 2012.[citation needed]

Shootist Films' second feature film The Ocean of Helena Lee (featuring McKee in a supporting role) was released May 2015 with accompanying soundtrack. The film played a week run at The American Cinematheque at The Egyptian Theater. Akin, McKee and drummer Tom Dunne (also an actor and lead player in the film) performed a set of music after each screening. The film screened in competition at The Indie Memphis Film Festival and The Pesaro International Film Festival as well as out of competition in The Fastnet Film Festival in Schull, Ireland. It received a four out of four star review on Shootist Films' latest release Beauty Majesty and Terror will be released in 2019. It features McKee in the leading role.[citation needed]

Published fiction[edit]

In 2009, McKee's short story, "Charcoal", was included in the Melville House Publishing short fiction anthology, Amplified: Fiction from Leading Alt-Country, Indie Rock, Blues and Folk Musicians. In 2018, an audio version of "Charcoal" was recorded by voice actor Patrice Gambardella and published on Bibliophone, a free audio book platform.[13][non-primary source needed]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to musician and filmmaker Jim Akin.[14] Maria came out in 2018 as pansexual[15][16] and has done advocacy and activist work for trans women, helping them access hormones and gender affirming surgeries.[citation needed]

She is a dog lover, and she and Akin have had a range of breeds as pets over the years, including a pug, greyhound, and whippet. She also has volunteered with a greyhound adoption group.[17] Her song, "My First Night without You", was written after one of her pugs died.[17]



  1. ^ "Obituary: Bryan MacLean". The Independent. January 1, 1999. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  2. ^ "Maria McKee: 'Show Me Heaven'? I don't think it's missed". The Independent. May 18, 2003. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 339. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ "Maria McKee - Daily Edition". February 23, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2018 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Wide Open Spaces - Dixie Chicks - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  7. ^ "Songs From A Stolen Spring". Valley Entertainment. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  8. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  9. ^ "Maranatha The New Jesus Music". Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Golden Horde - Friends in Time video". Retrieved September 13, 2011 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ "No Talking Just Head - The Heads - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  12. ^ "God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  13. ^ "Charcoal by Maria McKee". Bibliophone. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  14. ^ culturesonar (April 26, 2016). "Maria McKee's Next Act". Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  15. ^ McKee, Maria [@realmariamckee] (September 14, 2018). "I suppose "technically" I'm BI /Queer/Pan but really just enjoying my Dykedom right now" (Tweet). Archived from the original on October 2, 2019. Retrieved October 2, 2019 – via Twitter.
  16. ^ McKee, Maria (April 27, 2019). "Maria McKee on Instagram: "As I get to know more people in the community and we share coming out stories there is a degree of shame that comes up for me as a late…"". Instagram. Retrieved October 2, 2019. In keeping with the theme of being a late dyke, I am a day late with my #lesbiandayofvisibility post.
  17. ^ a b "Singer-songwriter Maria McKee". Talking Animals. January 31, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2019.

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