Women in rock music exhibition

This video from the USA says about itself:

Women Who Rock | Preview | PBS

See the full film at http://video.pbs.org/video/2168854975

From Bessie Smith to Janis Joplin to Lady Gaga, this performance documentary vibrates with energy as it traces the indelible mark that amazing women musicians have made on America’s soundtrack. Inspired by the “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, “Women Who Rock” reveals new insights into what it means to be female in the male-dominated world of rock and roll, while exploring how those dynamics between the sexes have changed with time. Cyndi Lauper, who appears in the program, hosts. The film is produced by Susan Wittenberg and Carol Stein with assistance from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

From the Huffington Post in the USA:

Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power‘ Comes To National Museum of Women in the Arts In September

Early 20th century French composer Nadia Boulanger once said: “A great work of art is made out of a combination of obedience and liberty.” It is safe to say the first ladies of rock-n-roll were no classical composers, shoving obedience to the side as they pursued their own ways to be free in a field dominated by men. …

Whether a pair of studded combat boots or a studded corset, the icons of rock’s female visionaries create an alternative timeline that sparkles, quite literally. A new exhibition entitled “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power,” will honor the women who blazed the trail for rockers and feminists alike, beginning with those who made a place for women in the music industry, and ending with the ones who eventually took it over. From Billie Holiday to Britney Spears, the show will revisit doo-wop girls, pop princesses, punk rockers, soul queens, rockabilly crooners and a whole lot more.

“Women Who Rock” will explore how women furthered the evolution of rock-n-roll, and how rock-n-roll helped women advance their societal roles in return. With hand-written lyrics by pioneers like Patti Smith and Janis Joplin, we are reminded that our most worshipped rock goddesses are actually human beings. Then again, Madonna‘s cone bra and Tina Tuner’s silver sequined dress depict how the scribbled words can elevate a musician from artist to icon. Whether you were raised on Stevie Nicks or Gwen Stefani, the combo of personal relics and iconic ensembles is enough to keep all ages interested.

The exhibition begins with Bessie Smith, dubbed ‘The Empress of the Blues.’ In the early 20th century the unknown talent began busking around her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, before rising to fame for the vulnerable power of her vocals. Smith broke through norms in every sense, from her identity as one of the first female blues vocalists to her fluid sexuality.

The exhibition continues from the “Roots of Rock” onto a portion called “Get Outta that Kitchen, Rattle Those Pots and Pans: Rock and Roll Emerges.” Female rockers burst onto the scene with an innocent yet unstoppable energy, visible in Ruth Brown’s striped, ruffled dress, emblazoned with treble clefs and Wanda Jackson’s acoustic (and of course bedazzled) guitar.

Continuing on we see the rise of the 1960’s girl group, and thus the crazed teen fans that accompany it. Groups like the Shangri-Las emerged, somewhere between rebellious trendsetters and over-dramatic girl next door, while also beginning the love affair between music and fashion. Music’s messages ranged from teenage trials to national issues in the 1970’s, with some of the greatest female powerhouses like Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin. With the hippie movement in full bloom and birth control revolutionizing a woman’s sexual freedom, this new power was pulsing all over.

Enter disco, feminist rock, and then the punk and post-punk movements. Women were no longer just guest appearing in the narrative of American music — they were starring in it. Punk innovators like Yoko Ono, Deborah Harry and Marianne Faithful

Deborah Harry might be called punk, but Yoko Ono and Marianne Faithful were 1960s

render gender almost irrelevant as consumer interest takes the backseat to DIY creations. And then Madonna comes on the scene. Enthusiastically embodying the powers of her sexuality, she exposed the possibility of women taking control of their image and reaping the benefits of their desirability, paving the way for 90s icons like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

The final aspect of the exhibition taps into the incredibly varied group of female musicians today, from Lady Gaga‘s shocktastic avant-garde antics to Queen Latifah‘s reign over rap. There is no single ending to the story of women and rock, rather the thread that has connected the exhibition frays out into infinite possibilities. You may not think Rihanna is the pinnacle of the feminist revolution, but seeing the Billboard Charts giant atop the timeline that Bessie Smith inaugurated a century ago highlights the huge strides necessary for the possibility of the Barbados chanteuse’s takeover. You may not like all of the artists, you may even shudder at their being referred to as such, but the exhibition succeeds in showing their contributions to the evolution of women’s roles, both in music and outside it. (Plus seeing Cher’s floor-length headdress in person is reason enough to attend.)

As if there isn’t enough to get excited about, Melissa Etheridge will perform an acoustic set as part of a benefit for the museum, receiving the National Museum of Women in the Arts Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts that night. You can purchase tickets to hear Etheridge’s raspy power ballads in person on Sunday, November 4th at 7 p.m.

“Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. will run from September 7, 2012 – January 6, 2013.

5 thoughts on “Women in rock music exhibition

  1. Aug 13, 3:55 PM EDT

    Longtime Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown has died

    AP National Writer

    NEW YORK (AP) — Helen Gurley Brown, the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine who invited millions of women to join the sexual revolution, has died. She was 90.

    Brown died Monday at a hospital in New York after a brief hospitalization, Hearst CEO Frank A. Bennack, Jr. said in a statement.

    “Sex and the Single Girl,” her grab-bag book of advice, opinion, and anecdote on why being single shouldn’t mean being sexless, made a celebrity of the 40-year-old advertising copywriter in 1962.

    Three years later, she was hired by Hearst Magazines to turn around the languishing Cosmopolitan and it became her bully pulpit for the next 32 years.

    She said at the outset that her aim was to tell a reader “how to get everything out of life – the money, recognition, success, men, prestige, authority, dignity – whatever she is looking at through the glass her nose is pressed against.”

    “It was a terrific magazine,” she said, looking back when she surrendered the editorship of the U.S. edition in 1997. “I would want my legacy to be, `She created something that helped people.’ My reader, I always felt, was someone who needed to come into her own.”

    Along the way she added to the language such terms as “Cosmo girl” – hip, sexy, vivacious and smart – and “mouseburger,” which she coined first in describing herself as a plain and ordinary woman who must work relentlessly to make herself desirable and successful.

    She put big-haired, deep-cleavaged beauties photographed by Francesco Scavullo on the magazine’s cover, behind teaser titles like “Nothing Fails Like Sex-cess – Facts About Our Real Lovemaking Needs.”

    Male centerfolds arrived during the 1970s – actor Burt Reynolds’ (modestly) nude pose in 1972 created a sensation – but departed by the `90s.

    Brown and Cosmo were anathema to militant feminists, who staged a sit-in at her office. One of them, Kate Millet, said, “The magazine’s reactionary politics were too much to take, especially the man-hunting part. The entire message seemed to be `Seduce your boss, then marry him.'”

    Another early critic was Betty Friedan, who dismissed the magazine as “immature teenage-level sexual fantasy” but later came around and said Brown, “in her editorship, has been a rather spirited and gutsy example in the revolution of women.”

    “Bad Girls Go Everywhere,” the 2009 biography of Brown by Jennifer Scanlon, a women’s studies professor, argued that her message of empowerment made Brown a feminist even if the movement didn’t recognize her as such.

    There was no disputing that Brown quickly turned a financial turkey into a peacock.

    Within four issues, circulation, which had fallen below the 800,000 readers guaranteed to advertisers, was on the rise, even with the newsstand price increasing from 35 cents to 50 and then 60.

    Sales grew every year until peaking at just over 3 million in 1983, then slowly leveled off to 2.5 million at $2.95 a copy, where it was when Brown left in 1997. (She stayed on as editor in chief of the magazine’s foreign editions.)

    She was still rail-thin, 5-feet-4 and within a few pounds of 100 in either direction, as she had kept herself throughout her life with daily exercise and a careful diet.

    “You can’t be sexual at 60 if you’re fat,” she observed on her 60th birthday. She also championed cosmetic surgery, speaking easily of her own nose job, facelifts and silicone injections.

    An ugly duckling by her own account, Helen Gurley was a child of the Ozarks, born Feb. 18, 1922 in Green Forest, Ark. Growing up in the Depression, she earned pocket money by giving other kids dance lessons.

    Her father died when she was 10 and her mother, a teacher, moved the family to Los Angeles, where young Helen, acne-ridden and otherwise physically unendowed, graduated as valedictorian of John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in 1939.

    All the immediate future held was secretarial work. With typing and shorthand learned at a business college, she went through 18 jobs in seven years at places like the William Morris Agency, the Daily News in Los Angeles, and, in 1948, the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency. There, when finally given a shot at writing ad copy, she began winning prizes and was hired away by Kenyon & Eckhardt, which made her the highest paid advertising woman on the West Coast.

    She also evidently was piling up the experience she put to use later as an author, editor and hostess of a TV chit-chat show.

    “I’ve never worked anywhere without being sexually involved with somebody in the office,” she told New York magazine in 1982. Asked whether that included the boss, she said, “Why discriminate against him?”

    Marriage came when she was 37 to twice-divorced David Brown, a former Cosmopolitan managing editor turned movie producer, whose credits would include “The Sting” and “Jaws.”

    Her husband encouraged Brown to write a book, which she wrote on weekends, and suggested the title, “Sex and the Single Girl.”

    They moved to New York after the book became one of the top sellers of 1962. Moviemakers bought it for a then-very-hefty $200,000, not for the nonexistent plot, but for its provocative title. Natalie Wood played a character named Helen Gurley Brown who had no resemblance to the original.

    She followed up her success with a long-playing record album, “Lessons in Love,” and another book, “Sex in the Office,” in 1965.

    That year she and her husband pitched a women’s magazine idea at Hearst, which turned it down, but hired her to run Cosmopolitan instead.

    In 1967 she hosted a TV talk show, “Outrageous Opinions,” syndicated in 19 cities and featuring celebrity guests willing to be prodded about sex and other risque topics.

    She also went on to write five more books, including “Having It All” in 1982 and in 1993, at age 71, “The Late Show,” which was subtitled: “A Semiwild but Practical Survival Plan for Women Over 50.”

    “My own philosophy is if you’re not having sex, you’re finished. It separates the girls from the old people,” she told an interviewer.

    The Browns were childless by choice, she said.


    Rayner Pike contributed to this report.

    © 2012 The Associated Press

    See also



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