Music has always reflected cultural movements, helping to bring new ideas into the mainstream and change our mindset.
For most of the last 60 years, the industry may have been dominated by men, but a series of pioneering female artists have used their music to demand more for women. Through their voices, songs, attitudes and appearances, they encouraged a new generation of feminists to expect more.
In 1962, Carole King became the first woman in popular music to become famous for composing, arranging and conducting the album (Little Eva’s album, The Locomotion, with her then-husband, Gerry Goffin. Co-authored). She recalled the hits of major artists from Dusty Springfield to Aretha Franklin, but Goffin took most of the credit and was paid more than his wife.
Everything changed when the Women’s Liberation movement began in 1968 and when she left Goffin to begin her solo career. In 1973, she released a classic tapestry album. This album contains her own strip-down version of the song, including “(You Make Me Feel Like) ANatural Woman”. For the first time, her incredible talent was fully recognized. She was officially the most successful female songwriter in the United States and Britain in the second half of the 20th century, and she opened her door to everyone who followed.
As evidenced by recent HBO documentary Tina, Tina Turner is the ultimate icon of resilience. Born in Anna Maybrock, she picked cotton in her childhood on her family’s peasant farm in Nutbush, Tennessee, and then physically and mentally by her husband and music partner Ike. I suffered from a catalog of abuse.
When she left him, she reinvented herself and found a massive mainstream success in her 40s-most female stars, not to mention blacks, have long disappeared from the charts. It’s an era. With her 1984 debut solo album, Private Dancer, she broke racial boundaries, made history, and sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
Her sensuality, her powerful and distinctive voice, and her explosive performance inspired everyone from her big fans Beyonce to Rihanna and Cardi B. Her heritage goes beyond music. The impact of her brave decision to publicize her abuse is still felt. In the age of #MeToo.
Known as the “Punk Poet Winner,” Patti Smith played a central role in the creation of the New York punk scene in the 1970s. As a lonely woman in a super-masculine movement, she has since been a pioneer paving the way for all uncompromising female musicians – and at the age of 74, she remains fiercely cool.
“Jesus died for someone’s sin, but it wasn’t mine,” she groaned on her inspiring debut album, Horse’s song “Gloria.” Her androgynous appearance also broke the line. The album cover photo is a photo of Smith wearing a masculine white shirt and a jacket over his shoulder, making it one of Rock’s most iconic images.
Her beautiful and exciting 2010 memoirs, her Just Kids, is a must-read for women who consider herself to be her outsider, but she dreams of changing the world.
Founded by 14-year-old Ari Up, The Slits was a pioneering feminist band whose 1979 album Cut rocked the world of male-dominated British punk. As former guitarist Viv Albertine wrote in her wonderful memoir “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes” at the time. Music, music, music. The choices for boys, boys, boys, and young women were depressingly few: “You were a secretary and a wife.” Together, the band was “Tipical Girls” (“Who is a typical girl?” They barked at their resistance with songs such as “Did you invent it? Who is pulling it out?” A new and improved model?’) Despise social expectations, romance, and toxic masculinity.
They were pioneers when young women played their instruments and wrote songs about their lives. Of course, they were ridiculed by critics and often physically attacked in an attempt to boldly change their appearance and behavior, but they are now correctly seen as one of the most influential bands in history.
Everyone has an opinion about Madonna, but in many cases it is a strong opinion. For some, she is a tough and powerful woman, and her ambitions should be admired throughout her nearly 40-year career. Others see her as too unfriendly, too libido and too ambitious.
But whatever your view, in an industry that values and abandons the youth and beauty of her female performer, it is impossible to deny her success she has achieved in her own words. Since the 1980s, she has pushed the boundaries of what is believed to be accepted by women, despite “explicit sexism and misogyny, constant bullying and relentless abuse.” Her tolerance for her sexual fantasy, her unabashed attitude towards her own intellect, her lack of complete fear – Madonna’s influence on a woman who grew up listening to her music cannot be underestimated.
In the early 90’s, a feminist movement began to counter the overwhelming macho music scene dominated by grunge. Riot Grrrls, headed by an American band of all women, including Bikini Kill, called on women to open up space to express themselves when they became known. In the words of Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, “Girls to the Front!”
Courtney Love has always kept the band’s halls away from the movement (and she may have once slammed Hannah into her face during a quarrel) – she wanted more than their modest success. I was there. And she got it. Hall was the biggest female-led rock band of the 90’s, but as a confrontational loudmouth of babydoll dresses, tiaras and painted red lipstick, love was as hated as worshiped. But she shared Riot Grrrl’s commitment to clarify the third wave of raw, angry feminism through her songs dealing with body image, abuse and sexual exploitation. Marrying Kurt Cobain in Nirvana never defined her: she did.