Tag Archives: Kate Bush

Sweet dreams are made of meh

Meh.

I’m happy for Annie Lennox, Carly Simon, Pat Benatar, Sylvia Robinson, Elizabeth Cotten, and of course Dolly Parton, now that she’s realized what even the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee knows: She rocks. I’m also thrilled about Harry Belafonte and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

But I’m gutted that nominees Dionne Warwick, Kate Bush and A Tribe Called Quest didn’t make this year’s class of inductees. Overall, I’d say it’s a respectably varied but rather mediocre year for the Rock Hall (especially after the thrills of last year). In terms of progress toward diversity and inclusion, the gains are, well, losses overall.

My research assistant, Loyola Marymount University student Maude Bascome-Duong, and I did our annual numbers crunching, and this is what we found: Of the 28 musicians and industry figures being inducted, six are women (listed above). NPR erroneously stated that’s a record: In fact last year, seven women were inducted. 21.43 percent of this year’s inductees are women; again, that’s better than many previous years but lower than 2021’s 28 percent. The good news is the total percentage of women in the hall continues to rise, ever so slowly: From 8.17 percent to 8.56 percent. Yay, we gained 0.39 percent! Guess I’ll stop worrying about losing control over my own health decisions and throw a rock hall dance party! Sweet dreams indeed!

SCRRRREEETTCCHHH! (That’s the sound of a needle skating across an album, my millennials.)

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame diversity statistics, number of inductees per year.

Feminism requires an understanding of the intersection of identities, as we all know. So, how is the hall doing in terms of racial diversity? Worse than meh.

By our count, six of the inductees are BIPOC (Robinson, Cotten, Jam, Lewis, Belafonte and Lionel Richie). That’s a 14.57 percent drop from 2021 and part of a long-term slide from the hall’s early years, when minorities were often a majority, to this year’s accumulative total of 31.79 percent, down from 2021’s 32.38 percent. So in terms of diversity, that’s .39 percent forward ladies, .59 percent backwards for non-white artists.

Let’s put it this way: Dionne Warwick, Salt N Pepa, the Pointer Sisters, Labelle, Queen Latifah, Big Mama Thornton, Roxanne Shante, Chaka Khan, and Mary J. Blige are still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But now, Duran Duran is.

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Rock Hall: How about a little bit of ladies first?

My research assistant, Maude Bascome-Duong, and I finally had some time to crunch the numbers on the Rock & Roll Hall Hall of Fame nominations for 2022 and the results are mixed. While I applaud the nominating committee for putting Dolly Parton, the Eurythmics, Dionne Warwick, Kate Bush, Carly Simon and Pat Benatar on the ballot, numbers wise, the selection field still skews predominantly male.

Dionne Warwick

More than a third of the acts have female members, and all of those six acts have their women front and center. Not bad! But when you look at the total number of potential inductees, women account for only 12.77% of the nominees. (This is the more important number, because every living inductee gets a vote.) Yes this is higher than the current percentage of women already inducted into the Hall of Fame, but we need an infusion of women to be inducted to get their total percentage into the double digits. As I’ve argued before, this can only happen if the Hall of Fame inducts more female groups. We need the six women of Fanny to be inducted to begin to balance out the four men of Rage Against the Machine. The nominating committee seems to have a particular allergy to all female acts: Once again there are none on this year’s ballot. Fear of a female planet?

The other most egregious omission is any female rapper. The fact that Eminem has been nominated before Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Roxanne Shante is shameful.

The nominees are also more than 80% white. I repeat: The fact that Eminem has been nominated before Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Roxanne Shante is shameful.

Here are four acts that better be on next year’s ballot or I’m calling for a Lysistrata: Salt-N-Pepa, TLC, Labelle, and Fanny. Also for goddess’s sake, induct Big Mama Thorton as an early influencer this year. In Janet Jackson’s immortal words: Induct more women.

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The Problem with 1/12th: Armchair Art Walk Talk

On March 4, I took part in the San Pedro Armchair Art Walk. Following are the remarks I prepared on Women’s History Month, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Women Who Rock, and the problem with tokenism. You can watch the video with slideshow here. I was joined by two brilliant artists, Anne Daub and Monica Orozco.

I want to thank Linda Grimes, Sharyl Holtzman, and the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District for putting together this event. First Thursdays is one of my favorite things to do here in Pedro, and I can’t wait to be able to do it in person again: lobster rolls from the lobster truck, or sushi at Senfuku, wine and snacks and great art at Arnie and Ray’s gallery, all the galleries and restaurants and trucks and people. But I’m glad we have this to tide us over until those good times return.

Like all of us I’m sure, I have mixed feelings about Women’s History Month, because of course, half of the planet should get more than 1/12th of the year. But the fact is, we don’t. Women, like people of color, get disproportionately ignored the other 11 months of the year, so we better shout our achievements every second of the month of March, and keep shouting until it’s women’s history year, decade, century and millennium.

Interestingly, 1/12th is almost exactly the fraction of artists who are women who have been inducted into the rock’n’roll hall of fame since it was founded in 1986. It’s actually less than that: 7.63 percent. These appalling figures are why we need recuperative efforts such as Women’s History Month, or books about Women Who Rock: To set the record straight by shining a spotlight on the legions of women who get left out of the institutions, the history books, the archives, the museums, the playlists, the algorithms. Uplifting female musicians has been a mission for me ever since I was just a kid and heard Patti Smith singing about the sea of possibilities and Poly Styrene shouting Oh bondage, up yours! I created this book to celebrate what I call this rhythm movement, a century of female artists making great, glorious, gutsy music – some of them in the rock hall, most of them not. I hired dozens of women writers and artists to create portraits of these sheroes in words and in ink; here are a few examples . If you want to buy this book, it’s available here in Pedro at the Corner Store and the shop next door to it as well as the Cabrillo Aquarium Gift shop. And of course on Amazon.

But it’s important not just to celebrate women, but also to continually point out the way they are systematically disenfranchised, ignored, abused, and silenced by a male-dominated society and its institutions. We can’t stop with the ghettoization of dedicated history months; we need to be heard every month. That’s why for 10 years, in multiple articles, wielding statistics, graphs, historic examples, and suggested solutions, I have been documenting the Rock Hall’s abominable gender record. And I’m happy to say that in 2021, they listened, and acted. Women make up almost a quarter of the nominees announced last month, which granted, is not parity – but it’s three times better than 7.63 percent. Of course, these nominees – including Kate Bush, Mary J. Blige, and the Go-Go’s — have to get inducted. And the rock hall has 34 years of manhandling music history to make up for: the fact that every inductee gets a vote skews the rock hall voting body male. If every female act nominated – and only those acts – were inducted, the total percentage of women in the hall would rise more than one percentage point, to 8.73 percent – slightly more than 1/12th. That’s the best case scenario. In 2020, only one woman was inducted, Whitney Houston. As Janet Jackson said in 2019, Induct more women.

The industry, press, hall of fames, and history books have a long legacy of treating women musicians like shit. And they are increasingly getting called out on it. In 1994, the Grammys temporarily dropped the Best Female Rock Vocal category because they couldn’t think of any women to nominate for it – no PJ Harvey, no Ani Difranco, no Melissa Etheridge, no Kristin Hersh. A group called Strong Women in Music protested that year. In 2018, the Grammys were denounced for their failure to award women artists. When the Recording Academy president responded women need to “step up” to the plate – as if it was women’s fault their work was being shafted – he was forced to step down. This year, all the nominees in the Best Rock Performance category are female or female-fronted. That’s progress, and it’s progress caused not by women stepping up, but by women speaking up and demanding change.

So in March, we celebrate history, her story, our stories, but now and all year, we must also march, and protest, and demand not just our 8 percent, but our 50 percent. In the rock halls, in the history books, on the airwaves, on the streaming services, in our ears and in our hearts.

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