Thursday, March 23, 2017

Women Who Rock and/or Make History: Suzanne Vega and Lucy Stone

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).

I remember an awkward interview with Suzanne Vega, on the local UHF music video channel (WVEU, channel 69)I think the dude called her Susan 3 times before she corrected him. I was embarrassed for her. No, frustrated; I was frustrated for her. 

Two years later, when "Luka" became an international smash hit, Vega paid to have that idiot killed. Well, she should have.

Suzanne Vega's career covers a variety of folk/rock subgenres including folk/rock pop; folk/rock industrial; post-grunge folk/rock; folk/rock rock; folk/rock acapella; folk/rock acapella remixed as a dance track which hits #1 in Switzerland, Germany AND Austria; folk/rock songs about divorce; folk/rock wait, is that jazz music; and folk/rock whatever Leonard Cohen does.

In addition to some unlikely pop hits and amazing albums, she's won a Grammy (like many of the best female songwriters of her generation, she won in the category of Best Recording Package because girls are good at art [it still counts as a Grammy win, Liza]), won a Peabody award, and written a play about Carson McCullers with Duncan Sheik (as one does). She also collaborated with Joe Jackson on one of the best movie soundtracks from the last 50 years, and to celebrate she sports some sexy eye-shadow (and other make-up, yikes, the hair, this screams "my A&M A&R guy made me dress this way" [which is how "Luka" became an international hit, so clearly that dude was right... he probably manages a Best Buy now]).

Lucy Stone is the member of 19th century American triumvirate of suffrage and feminism that you haven't heard of (because you know who Susan B. Anthony is, and you've heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton even if you're not sure when or how). She was an abolitionist, was the first woman in Massachusetts to earn a college degree, and kept using her maiden name even though she was someone's property wife.

While teaching in district schools she complained (girls, amirite?) that she was paid less than male teachers. When she substituted for her brother Bowman, teaching every subject that he taught, she only earned half of his pay (what do you expect without a penis?). Later, when attending Oberlin College (the first college to accept girls and Blacks) she worked in their manual labor program to cover tuition and noted that girls made half the pay that males did. She confronted the school about its policies while requesting the same pay for teaching that 2 less experienced males earned. Oberlin, recognizing her lack of a penis, laughed derisively. 

Stone resigned because, fuck them.

Her students said "no, fuck them" (which is the same them, really) and pressured Oberlin to do the right thing (in this case hiring Stone back at a pay equal to her male peers [aka special rights!!!]).

She was a fashion icon, adopting a pants-under-short-skirt look (aka the "Turkish costume") that would give rise to the Bloomer. Later when she stopped wearing the style she was criticized, making her a prisoner of her wardrobe.

Despite her tireless efforts fighting for the abolition of slavery and equality for women, she is best known for her refusal to take her husband's name at marriage. No one put an "I voted" sticker on her grave last November. Possibly because she was cremated. 

* 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.

No comments: