Sunday, March 26, 2017

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Grace Jones and June Foray

March is Girl Women's History Month.

Fact: girls can do things too!

Fact: girls can't do rock and roll, or so one might conclude from the paucity of females inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (motto: "We've got Randy Newman!"). Real fact: girls can do rock and roll (some of them).

Since I am enjoying getting on my high horse (or getting high on horse), I'm going to double dip with a series of girl-on-girl posts. It's a combination of a female musical act (or a band with a female member [possibly more]) that merits* induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and a female who did something like bake a cake or killed a guy (Laura Bush killed a guy).

Today I'm celebrating 2 all-time favorites of mine. My cousin (all Joneses are cousins of mine) Grace is a bad ass singer, songwriter, producer, video artist, actress, model, and bon vivant. Like a rock & roll bon vivant, to be clear. 

She was not the first female to embrace glam (I credit Labelle there, predating her by 2 years) but she is the most committed to it, even if she's dialed it up and down during her 40+ years performing. Her influence is clear in the visuals and music of Annie Lennox, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Santigold. Don't believe me? Just ask Jones, she will tell you in no uncertain terms, they owe her.

Musically she's done standards, disco, electronic, rock, hip hop, art rock, semi-reggae, and whatever Arcadia is considered (new wave? synth pop?). Visually she's always conveyed strength and grace. And the visual is an important dimension for Jones, she was an early artist in the video music genre (her only EGOT love was a nomination for Best Long-Form Video for One Man Show), and also collaborated with artists and designers, folks like Andy Warhol, Helmut Newton, and Jean-Paul Goude. 

In 2012, at the age of 64, Grace performed at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. She sang "Slave to the Rhythm" and hula-hooped through the entire song

She continues to record, both as a solo artist and guest vocalist. While her appearance on Last Train to Paris, an album I love, is unrecognizable, Gorillaz have announced her as one of their new album's guests.

She is one of the reasons my dog is named Grace/Gracie. Gracie is Randall's mom's name, and the name I usually give out to people when they meet her, but Grace Kelly Jones is her full name. She is 1 part Grace Kelly and 2 parts Grace Jones.

Her version of "Demolition Man" came out a few months before the Police's, by they way:

According to legendary animator Chuck Jones, June Foray isn't the female Mel Blanc, Mel Blanc is the male June Foray. She started in radio at 12 years old and was doing regular voice work a few years later. That was 84 years ago. She was still performing in 2014, a career of more than 80 years.

In that time she has given voice to Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale (these are the voices that make me cherish her, her contribution to the magic that is Bullwinkle), Nell Fenwick from Dudley Do-Right, Granny (from Tweety Bird; she took over the role from Bea Benaderet), Cindy Lou Who, Witch Hazel, and scores more. 

In 2012, at age 94, she became the oldest entertainer to win an Emmy (a Daytime Emmy, but still) for voice work on The Garfield Show, just a year after winning the Governors Award from the actual (Primetime) Emmy peeps.

In 2011 I wrote that it was time for her to step aside, let some new female voices get established. The talent that made her ubiquitous was building her something of a monopoly. Most women who are established voice artists tend to have fewer characters than their male counterparts (the 3 female voice actors for The Simpsons have an average of 8 characters/actor between them; the 3 male voice actors have an average of 33.3 characters/actor between them). June is 99 and she won't be around forever. When we say goodbye, I will be genuinely very sad.

* There is a wide spectrum of rock & roll gravitas for the artists included in the 31 I will include. I feel like a reasonable case can be made for each, and everyone one of these is at least as worthy as Randy Newman, 2103 inductee.

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