Sunday, January 06, 2013

Music Sunday: The "Women Rock" Edition

I found a book at the library the other day, Rock Chronicles (Firefly Books, 2012; 576 pages), edited by David Roberts. Interesting book, and a valuable reference, as far as it goes. It's title, though, points up its limited nature: it includes what its editor and contributors consider rock acts. Purely pop acts are mostly missing, which serves to leave out most female acts. In a way, this makes sense. Of the 22 contributors to the volume, only one is a woman.

Well, rock has traditionally been a male stronghold. The men make the music, and the women are mostly relegated to minor roles when they have any role at all. There are exceptions, of course, which is the point I aim to make here today.

Looking through the book, I realized that I've been emphasizing male acts here on Music Sundays. That is difficult not to do, considering that the vast majority of acts, especially in the rock era, are made up predominantly of men. But, having noted the lack, I decided that today is a good day to highlight women in music.

I have to start with Janis Joplin, simply because she was so remarkable a singer. Probably best known for her recordings of "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Piece of My Heart", I really love her cover of "Summertime", here in a live performance in Stockholm in 1969:

Another remarkable performer, from another generation, is Pink. Pink can rock with the best of them and make on-point social comment at the same time, as here, in "Stupid Girls":

On occasion, women have taken a prominent place in bands. For example, who thinks about Fleetwood Mac without thinking about Stevie Nicks? Here, Nicks takes the lead on "Rhiannon" in a 1976 live performance on "The Midnight Special":

I might actually be sharing this next clip because I want to have ready access to it without having to hunt around for it on YouTube. However, I think it is a wonderful example of women, in this case Ann and Nancy Wilson, from Heart, taking a song written by men, for men to perform, and doing as good a job of performing it as anyone ever has and probably ever will. This is the performance of "Stairway to Heaven" from the recent Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Led Zeppelin:

Earlier, in the 1960s and 70s, women were active in the folk music scene, although, as always, the men got most of the recognition. Meanwhile, women like Joni Mitchell were writing and performing songs like "Both Sides Now" (which was a hit for Judy Collins) and "The Circle Game". Here is Mitchell performing both songs on Canadian television in 1968:

Of course, I've just scratched the surface here with examples of women in rock and folk and blues. I haven't even gotten to Motown yet, or to women in country music. I think I'll leave that for another Music Sunday. Goodness knows, the men have gotten and will get enough time in the spotlight here, as sthey do in the music industry generally.

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