Yes, that's right... after reading some comments on my "keyboard" post, and seeing a striking similarity to a comment on my "best frontman" post, I've begun to feel a little insecure. Am I a sexist? Hardly. I told my wife about the comments, and she scoffed, saying that all I'm ever doing is listening to women! So, let me defend myself, and then move on to the women that I enjoy listening to...
First: Let me discuss the keyboard thing. I have racked my brain, and I STILL can't think of any female keyboardists (in the world of Rock music) that compare to the gentlemen I have listed. I did not (nor will I ever) set out to make a blog post that is gender-centric... well, except for THIS one. I understand that in the world of Classical, there are many incredibly talented female pianists... probably more than men... but that is far from my forte'. I feel that if I were to list a (mediocre) female keyboardist to the list, just to represent the ladies, would be akin to me putting Meg White on the best drummer list... just 'cause she's a lady. Sorry Meg, it ain't gonna happen. Nothing against the White Stripes... I enjoy their quirky approach to music, but it isn't going to hold up to the Neil Pearts of the world.
(By the way, White Stripes fans can direct their hate mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org!)
As for women "front men"...er..."front persons", I would have been happy to put Janis Joplin on their... but she was a solo artist. And Ann and Nancy Wilson are equals, in my eyes... so it was impossible to put one over the other. Maybe I should have put them down as the Wilson Collective. Maybe next time.
So, where do women stand in my musical world? Probably a lot closer to the top than many men. I had even written a gushing blog post, early this year, about how impressed I was with the latest album by MINNIE DRIVER. I acquired a free copy of the CD at the same time that "The Riches" was playing on FX, and I was blown away by her talents on EACH level. Regardless, to keep the peace at home, I quietly deleted that post, after only a day of it being up. So, for you fans of some good Folk tinged Americana music, go get her last album. It's wonderful.
I will say that (in my humble opinion) the fairer sex really shines through in the world of Contemporary Folk music, and as singer/songwriters. From my first exposure to Suzanne Vega, 21 years ago, I have been an avid fan of the female singer/songwriters. I love Shawn Colvin, The Story (as well as Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball doing their separate solo careers), Sarah McLachlan, Patty Larkin, Patty Griffin, Happy Rhodes, Dar Williams, among many others.
I have a great respect for the First Ladies of Rock, as well. Heart, Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry (a.k.a. Blondie), Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, etc. You will find each and every one of them on my iPod.
Two of my favorite ladies in music, are the incomparable Kate Bush, who encompasses every aspect of art, in her music. Her one and only tour was such an intense show, complete with coreography and continual costume changes, that 30 years later, she has never toured again. Another of my favorites, is the aforementioned Happy Rhodes, who was directly influenced by Kate Bush, Yes, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel. The fact that her first four albums were completely written (with the exception of one song, written by a friend) and performed by Happy, herself, puts her in a category all her own.
So, in conclusion... let me list a few of my favorite women in the world of music!
KATE BUSH: Having been introduced to David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) at the tender age of 16, she was signed to EMI Records, and told to mature her music (not to mention her 16 year old person) for a couple years, and then record her first album at the age of 18. Although her albums have become increasingly more sporadic, they will ALWAYS be heartfelt, true works of art. When she was working on "THE RED SHOES", Prince (who had become a great admirer) asked her if she would sing one of his songs, on her album. She politely turned him down, explaining that she only included her own music, on her albums. He did, however, make a musical contribution on the record.
HAPPY RHODES: I've said 'nuff already.
SARAH MCLACHLAN: Having fallen in love with her music, shortly after the Canadian release of "FUMBLING TOWARDS ECSTACY" (six months before the US release), I was smitten by this wonderful singer/songwriter. Although her career turned into a more Pop oriented style (right when I was hoping it would go another direction), she has continued to create good music. "FUMBLING" will always be my favorite album of Sarah's, but they are ALL wonderful to listen to.
THE STORY: Although "The Story" was really only a two album collaboration between Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball, they managed to produce some of my favorite Contemporary Folk moments on record. "THE ANGEL IN THE HOUSE" has some of the most beautiful, tight harmonies ever to be recorded... right up there with The Beach Boys.
MINDY SMITH: Three words: ONE MOMENT MORE. Both the album, and the song. A song which she wrote after her mother passed away of cancer. It is some of the most beautiful, heartfelt music that I have ever heard. Enough to make a grown man cry... or at least, be deeply moved.
DAR WILLIAMS: I ask... what's NOT to love about Dar?
SINEAD O'CONNOR: Although I have only ever owned four of her albums... maybe five, I will ALWAYS admire Sinead's ability to stand up for what she believes in, regardless of how it may effect her popularity. Not to mention, her music comes from the heart...
ALISON KRAUSS: She may not be a songwriter, but she has the voice of an angel.
NEKO CASE: This singer/songwriter has a split personality. One side of her is the haunting voice, releasing some of the greatest Americana/Alt. Country music EVER, while the other side of her is one sixth (or one seventh, depending on the time) of the quirky Canadian Indie/Rock/Pop band, THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS. If you need to see further evidence of my appreciation for Neko... scroll down the page.
HOLLY KNIGHT: One of the greatest songwriters of the 80's. You would know many of her songs, such as "Love Is a Battlefield" and "Invincible", made popular by Pat Benatar. She wrote several songs that were performed by some of the top artists of the 80's. She was also the key member of DEVICE, a band that created some of my favorite Pop/Rock of the 80's.
ARETHA FRANKLIN: Has anyone ever had such a powerful voice? Maybe, but they aren't labeled the Queen of Soul.
So, Kate, there you have it. The ladies have had their day in the sun. Really, I do not discriminate. Maybe if you take genres of music, it may seem like I discriminate, but I don't. Heck, when it comes to Folk music, I would much rather listen to a woman, over, say... Bob Dylan. Bob... a great songwriter... but NOT the voice of an angel!