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Article 34

Rock On

Female Rockers

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 23rd February, 2002)


R ock music over the ages seems to have been dominated by the male members of the human species. All the great legends of Rock have been male and even if you go to a Rock concert anywhere in the world, the audience will consist of predominantly male members. Yet thankfully, there have been some notable exceptions and the female species have brought in a new dimension to the music we love. This has made the genre richer and widened the audience for Rock, to include women with attitude and a zest for life. To include all female Rockers would indeed be an impossible task and beyond the ambit of this article. I just hope to touch upon a few of the greats who have made a difference to me and I will be continuing with the rest in future articles.

Janis Joplin would definitely top my list of female rockers and I have written an entire article on this Rock celebrity some weeks back. Her powerhouse bluesy vocals have moved millions of her fans to make her the legend that she has become. Janis accidentally overdosed on a pure batch of heroin in a motel in Los Angeles and her untimely death robbed all of us of the opportunity to experience some great music. She had matured into a fine composer/singer and her best work was yet to come. She will always be my favorite female icon for Rock stardom in the late Sixties.

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane is another lady from those days who is still rocking till today and was one of the leaders of the California "hippie" Rock movement of the swinging sixties. Her strong voice was the focal point of her famous band and her "Somebody to love" will be on the list of the best-loved songs of just about everybody from that era. Grace lived her life the way that she wanted to, like almost every musician of that time. And like all Rockers, she did have problems with authority. As she has said in her own words, "I've enjoyed accommodations offered by police departments from Florida to Hawaii. Any time I saw a badge, something in me would snap." Those 'flower power' days have been effectively chronicled in the music of Jefferson Airplane and Grace has successfully carried on her career with Jefferson Starship, the remnants of her famous band of the sixties.

The Folk Music of America witnessed a grand revival during those crazy days in the sixties as Americans went about examining their roots and exploring their musical ancestry. Women played a major role in that movement and the introduction of Rock and other American forms of music in the traditional Folk music of America was not far from coming. Joni Mitchell was one of those women who, over 30-plus years is widely regarded as one of the most significant and consistent artist of that generation. Joni Mitchell is a songwriter, singer, musician, poet and painter. Her output of 21 albums with her unique interpretation of divergent styles creates an intriguing, often unclassifiable musical landscape, captivating music lovers and keeping pundits guessing. Artistes as diverse as Tori Amos, Seal, Annie Lennox and Prince cite Joni as an influence; Even Madonna has gone on record to say that Joni's album "COURT & SPARK" was a favorite of hers while in high school.

Women, over the years, have added a soft melodious touch to the hard pounding beats of Rock music whereby diehard fans would even refuse to acknowledge it's Rock ancestry. Yet there can be no doubt regarding the Rock roots of the music. One such band that saw an enormous reversal of fortune when they joined the "Soft Rock" bandwagon was the old bluesy English Rock band Fleetwood Mac. And Stevie Nicks, their new singer/song writer was the major architect of change. Nick's role in the band was crucial, as she supplied the band with consistent top 40 hits. Her persona also gave the band an appealing image and character, a factor that plays an important role in the popularity of musical celebrities. The Americanization of Fleetwood Mac was a successful experiment and the group's albums with Nicks have repeatedly scored gold or platinum with every effort, often many times over. "Rumours", the defining album for Fleetwood Mac, held its position at No. 1 for an amazing 31 weeks and went on to be certified platinum 17 times over. It also became one of the biggest selling American albums of all time. Nicks went on to become the group's most successful solo artist and has released her latest Grammy-nominated album "Trouble In Shangri-La" just last year. This album features a hit duet with one of her greatest fans, Sheryl Crow. Her classic "Edge Of Seventeen" was also sampled for the Destiny's Child smash single "Bootylicious" where Nicks appeared alongside Beyoncé and company in the song's video.

There have been so many other women who have made Rock history and the list continues to grow but I guess you will have to wait till next week before we get a chance to explore them. Till then, Rock On!

Nandu Bhende

http://nandu_bhende.tripod.com


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