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Guitar Heroines, Or Lack Thereof? - Riffs and Licks — LiveJournal
Guitar Heroines, Or Lack Thereof?
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From: couscous1021 Date: August 22nd, 2004 10:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Ken, this is a great essay. Write to Rolling Stone right away- every guitar player needs to read this.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: August 23rd, 2004 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
My guitar teacher went off on this as well, and made a few more good points:
  • Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page was influenced strongly by Joni Mitchell and wrote a song about her, "Going to California." Jimi Hendrix was also an admirer.

  • Like Joni, quite a few of the men on the list are rhythm guitarists, not lead guitarists, most notably Pete Townshend and Keith Richards. ("Play what they play on acoustic guitar and you've got Joni.")
She also recommended a fairly recent documentary, "Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockabilly," which isn't available from Netflix but you can order it from Video Beat, so maybe there's a video party in the future...

Finally, in the I Should Have Thought Of That dept, some additions to the list of counterexamples, from her, blues-l and my own CD collection: Lydia Lunch, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Rory Block, Deobrah Coleman, Susan Tedeschi, Ani Di Franco, Beverly "Guitar" Watkins, and Etta Baker.
From: polytropia Date: August 26th, 2004 12:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Bob and steelbrassnwood. Boy, I started getting pissed off when I read this! It's true, the list is a self-selecting one, basically made up of, "People I personally like." Then the author gets to ask, "Why aren't there more women on the list of {people I personally like}? It must be because women suck."

Joni Mitchell was so influential on Led Zeppelin that she's sometimes called the fifth member. Completely changing the way everyone thinks about tuning a guitar isn't groundbreaking? Give me a break.

Nancy Wilson is, of course, amazing. And in the folk scene, there's also Patty Griffin, Susan Werner, Devon Sproule...jesus. I mean, Yes, there are fewer women in guitar, and we are not encouraged in any way shape or form to get good at it. However, there are a sizable number of women who manage to excel in it, blinding indifference be damned.

Also, as a woman and a guitarist, may I note that,

A) electric guitars cost hella bucks, and women tend not to have money to spend on 'frivolous' things like instruments? I write my songs on acoustic right now because that's all I can afford! and,

B) electric guitars are still for the most part designed physically for men, which means they are very heavy for women.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: August 26th, 2004 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Two more folksingers with great guitar chops: Shawn Colvin and Patty Larkin, both of whom also illustrate another aspect of the problem: the pressure by record companies to conform to an established image/sound. When I first saw Shawn Colvin live (in 1991, with Richard Thompson) she kicked ass, sang very angry songs and played intense acoustic guitar. I bought her album the next day and was disappointed in the gentle Suzanne Vega sound. Slowly her live sound gentled out and the last show I saw of hers (in 1994 or so) was much less interesting. Meanwhile Larkin actually played electric guitar in a rock band for some years but didn't hit it big until she went out as a solo singer-songwriter. (One more sorta example: She's overshadowed by David Rawlings but Gillian Welch plays well; in Central Park last week she tore up the place on bass for a couple of songs.)

The weight problem never occurred to me, but you're right. I was floored (almost literally) the first time I picked up a Les Paul. But in retrospect, I don't know why I was surprised that a big chunk of hardwood would be heavy...
From: polytropia Date: August 27th, 2004 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, Patty Larkin is an amazing guitar player! There's a great song of hers on All Songs Considered that I listened to over and over for about a month.

The main problem for women in music is the pointed indifference when we are starting out. I'm reminded of a quote by Bella Abzug: Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel. A woman in music who is obviously brilliant and talented will be encouraged -- granted, not as much as an equally-talented man, but encouraged nonetheless. However, real prodigies are rare, and the vast majority of musicians have to suck for a while before they can become any good. Only when women who suck are encouraged as much as men who suck, will we end up with an equal number of men and women who are good.

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