rock ‘n’ roll or rock-and-roll (rkn-rl)
n. A form of popular music arising from and incorporating a variety of musical styles, especially rhythm and blues, country music, and gospel. Originating in the United States in the 1950s, it is characterized by electronically amplified instrumentation, a heavily accented beat, and relatively simple phrase structure.
The rock genre is said to have emerged during the 1950s with artists like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Beatles. While I agree these artists were instrumental in the conception of rock music, it bemuses me how girl bands are consistently forgotten when we consider the evolution of rock.
Over the past week, we’ve seen several artists speak out against the sentence handed down to Russian punk band Pussy Riot. While I’ll avoid getting political for purposes of this post, I call bullshit on any member of the media for criticizing artists like Madonna for speaking out in support of this band. I wonder, if it were a male punk band in question, would the same sentence have applied? Would the same level of media scrutiny occurred?
Female bands have participated in the rock, punk and metal genres for decades yet these kick ass musicians are often overlooked when media references the pioneers of rock. Fleetwood Mac would have never risen to fame without the iconic vocals of Stevie Nicks or the songwriting chops of Christine McVie. Let’s not forget prolific female artists like Debbie Harry, Janis Joplin, Joan Jett and Joni Mitchell who helped shape the musical genres we know and love today. Why do filmmakers and mainstream media constantly pass over these artists when the topic of rock legends arises?
In my generation, bands like The Breeders, Veruca Salt and 4 Non Blondes were blazing the alt rock trail. I’ll never forget the media shit storm that transpired after L7 front woman Donita Sparks pulled out a tampon mid-set and chucked it into the audience. While I agree this was a grotesque gesture and I would have been less than impressed to have that thing land on me in a mosh pit, the media fallout was unfair. Ozzy Osborne garnered major publicity for biting the head off a live bat during a show with Black Sabbath. What about Jim Morrison notoriously pulling his cock out during a concert in Miami while blind drunk and abusively taunting the audience? These moments seem to go down in history as expressive or thought provoking, but the moment a female rocker behaves badly she is shunned…or jailed or condemned.
Over the weekend I watched Heart
perform kick ass with as much energy, angst and stamina as any male rock band touring today. They even closed the show with an homage to Led Zeppelin, playing their rendition of Misty Mountain Hop. Ann Wilson’s vocals rivaled those of Robert Plant and proved girls can rock just as hard and be just as badass as the boys. In that moment I couldn’t have been more proud to be a girl.