There was a time once not so long ago when to be a woman meant to advocate feminine refinement equal to that of a timid, well-groomed house cat, and to keep your mouth shut if you had an opinion. Those were the musical days of Doris Day, Peggy Lee, and Ella Fitzgerald, whose ways of musically expressing themselves were classy at best.
Then came the summer of love in 1967, and to disregard your inhibitions was encouraged by a population of inspirational flower children who tossed their bras aside before reciting political poetry, dancing naked under the sun. Janis Joplin, and Patti Smith were two female musicians among a select few who, at the time, aimed not only to embrace womanhood, but promote the artistic, sexual, and sensual hearts of women abound. [x_pullquote cite=”Kate Catalina” type=”right”]”Their sex appeal, raw talent, and stage presence helped shape the modern day woman.”[/x_pullquote]
Years after the standard love songs of the 30s, 40s and 50s could be called classics, and the dreamy lyrics and folk rock delivery of songs such as “People Have The Power” (Patti Smith) would forever go down in history as revolutionary— there came an era of loud rebellion in the music world known as rock and roll.
Aside from popular fashions such as shiny spandex, teased hair, and electric blue eyeshadow that still define the 80s today, a proper rock and roll attitude ran furious around the world.
And unlike crooning jazz tunes about love, and folk songs hailing feminism, rock and roll was a statement of rebellion. It shouted the presence of a new revolution. It was a way of life that promoted total freedom, to live as one pleases, and slapped authority in the face with powerful electric guitar solos, controversial stage attire, and literal screams of passion in between verses and choruses, almost breaking the speakers.
However, the new genre of rock in the 1980s was dominated mostly by male musicians we know so well to be nicknamed as rockstars, like Stephen Tyler, David Bowie, Freddy Mercury, Robert Plant, Axl Rose, Jon Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, and Vince Neil (to name a few) With their flamboyant wardrobes and excited showmanship, it was easy for them to steal the spotlight.
Of course, female rockers had their own way of stealing the spotlight, too, and the most popular female rock icons like Joan Jett, Ann & Nancy Wilson (Heart), Stevie Nicks, Lita Ford, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Shirley Manson (Garbage), Kate Bush, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), and Marie Fredrikkson (Roxette) have never been forgotten. Their sex appeal, raw talent, and stage presence helped shape the modern day woman.
If anything, in a genre dominated mostly by men, these women paved a rare path with the their stance in rock where confidence could be found, picked up with ease, and worn like a shield of armor. Women became inspired to stand up and represent what they believed in.
Fast forward two and a half decades later, and we come to an abrupt halt.
Where have all the female rockstars gone?
Surely POP music has not taken over that much! Has it? Female POP icons like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, and Shakira seemed to have thrown a pink, sugar-coated pebble into the dark and daring machine that is rock and roll by way of the woman (hear them roar!) Instead of a sexy revolution of Team Girl Power that highlights independence and individuality, an unfortunate force of candy girls now sing and dance like circus monkeys to songs written mostly by a number of unknown names who get paid too well to shape their image and sound.
POP is not about the music, but rather is about showing off a girlish frolic, which seems all too false: they’re trying too hard.
But in the wake of their attempt the female rocker has only been quieted, not rendered inexistent!
New in the rock scene today are some fierce ladies who have brought back the feminine rebellion birthed in the 80s.
Taylor Mumson, lead singer and guitarist of The Pretty Reckless (who also played little Cindy Lou Who in the 2000 rendition of Dr Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas) comes into play with her sultry, youthful appearance and soulful voice. Elle King plunged into the scene in 2012 with her debut single “Good To Be A Man,” and in 2015 reappeared on the rock scene more powerful than ever with her raspy vocals and tough-girl persona with the release of yet another hit single, “Exes And Ohs.”
Spreading a positive female narrative today, as well, is Lizzy Hale, guitarist and lead singer of hard rock group Halestorm, whose sweet face isn’t enough to hide her take-no-names personality so apparent in her songs, like “Love Bites (So Do I),” and “I Miss The Misery.”
And don’t forget alternative rock chick Amy Lee (Evanescence), pop punk Australian duo, The Veronicas, Paramore and Orianthi, who has earned her place as one of the greatest female guitarists of all time.
Women of rock are paving the way yet again, and it’s about time!
Story: Kate Catalina.
Photos: Larry Busacca/Getty Images. Norman Seeff.