I was so excited to be part of The New York Times‘s multimedia package on Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl, I forgot to blog about it. I co-wrote with Elisabeth Vincentelli the main piece, the essential Riot Grrrl listening guide. And I got to write about my first Bikini Kill show and their first show in years. And I took part in the Popcast! Plus there are historic videos of 1990s Bikini Kill shows by my grrrlfriend Lucretia Tye Jasmine. PRDCT!!!
Kudos to Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson for their inductions into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, as I broke it down for Longreads.com, women still make up less than 8 percent of Rock Hall inductees. The Hall exemplifies the historical manhandling of women’s roles in rock, from Rolling Stone to Mystery Train to, now, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I don’t just critique: I offer plans of action, including an (almost) all-female inductee list next year, and removal of Ahmet Ertegun’s name from the museum’s exhibition hall and industry award, in the wake of charges of sexual harassment. This isn’t the first time I’ve called the Hall to task for their systemic exclusion of female artists; sadly the numbers haven’t improved a bit since that 2011 Salon article.
I’m way late posting this here (it was a hectic fall!) but I reviewed Tina Turner’s and Dorothy Carvello’s memoirs for The New York Times. “There has been a steady stream of accounts of assault, harassment and discrimination in recording studios, at record labels and at music magazines; pick up any autobiography of a female musician and you’ll find at least one anecdote that will turn your stomach. R. Kelly, the Runaways, Kesha — stories of abuse long preceded Harvey Weinstein, and continue to trigger news alerts. The real question should be, why haven’t these stories provoked more outrage against a form of oppression that is clearly systemic, along with a push for change?”
In the sad, crazy tumult of the passing of the Queen of Soul, coinciding with the start of classes, I forgot to post my tribute to Aretha Franklin, which I was honored to write as the cover story for Billboard‘s tribute issue. Here it is: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/magazine-feature/8471733/aretha-franklin-path-to-greatness-obituary
In my list of articles I was blessed to write for the late, great Village Voice, I forgot to include perhaps the most significant: “The Feminine Critique”: the not-so-secret history of women rock critics that reclaimed the legacies of Ellen Willis, Karen Durbin, Jaan Uhelszki, Carola Dibbell, Donna Gaines, and many others and that became the basis of my first book, Rock She Wrote, coedited by Ann Powers. That article also obliquely pointed out one of the failures of the Voice as well, which at that point in its already long career, had not had a female music editor. I now teach a class called The Feminist Critique.
I first became aware of The Village Voice in high school, when my older brother, Brett, used to go the Beloit, Wisconsin, public library to peruse its political investigations and music coverage. We were both discovering punk rock, watching Patti Smith on Saturday Night Live, and we could read about the newest bands from CBGB’s in the Voice. Later, in college, I got assigned to write about it in my one and only journalism class. Within a few years, I was copy editing and writing there, ultimately becoming a senior editor in charge of music. It was a crazy, difficult, exciting place, and the work I did for them — “discovering” Paul Beatty and the rest of the ’90s NYC lit scene bubbling around the incredible Nuyorican Poets Cafe, traveling to New Zealand to write about music, covering Rent as it moved from Downtown to Broadway and beyond, interviewing John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the creators of a new musical called Hedwig and the Angry Inch; writing about punk drag artists such as Justin Bond and Miss Guy — still defines me. And then there was my one and only cover story, the first major interview with Patti Smith after her husband Fred died and she returned to the stage — an incredible encounter with the woman who made me want to be a rock’n’roll critic, and move to New York, and dive into the sea of possibilities. RIP Voice. Say hi to Aretha.