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The United States Of Women In Music

The United States Of Women In Music

Rocks Off is no He-Man Woman Hater's Club. We like women quite a bit, actually, especially those women brave enough to wade through the rivers of bullshit in the male-dominated music business. If you'll page back a few weeks, you'll remember the discussion of our favorite female artists from the decade most of us came of age.

And so when we realized our map "The United States of Music" a few weeks ago came out 98 percent male - and thanks to commenter "Sohardtopickausername" for the push - we took that as a challenge. Could we do it again with women?

We weren't sure, honestly. The sad truth is that there have been many, many more famous male musicians over the years than females, which makes it less like Eating Our Words' beer and soda-pop charts than Hair Balls' serial-killer map, we suppose. We already had a hard enough time finding male representatives for a few states. But we figured we'd give it a shot.

It was tough, for two reasons. One, like we thought, some states have produced very few female musicians of any renown... if any. The Great Plains, for example, turned out to be not-so-great, and we had to go way, way back into history for a few. (Sorry, Wyoming.) Same for the smaller states, which explains why you see Bob Marley's Jamaican-born mother - who was a singer herself and performed with Bob's children off and on until her death a few years ago - up there in Delaware, where she lived for several years.

Other places it was the exact opposite. The Northeast was a logjam; at one point during our research, it seemed like every other artist we looked up was born in New York City. Detroit also came up quite a bit; we hope Diana Ross and Bettye LaVette will forgive us for choosing Aretha Franklin, who was born in Memphis but moved to the Motor City when she was four. Virginia is for jazz singers, apparently, but we chose someone of a little more recent vintage.

The South was the easiest region to negotiate because, well, we're from here. But even that was no picnic. But we can sleep at night picking Irma Thomas over Lucinda Williams for Louisiana, and we think Lucinda probably can too.

Finally, some of our fellow Texans may cry foul because we put Beyonce up there instead of Janis - or Lydia Mendoza or Tanya Tucker or Erykah Badu or Selena - but we can assure you, we love them all.

See the next page for details on some of our other lesser-known selections.

 

The Cherry Sisters
The Cherry Sisters

Eden Atwood (Montana): Missoula-dwelling jazz singer specializing in ballads; albums include Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1993) and A Night In the Life (1995).

The Cherry Sisters (Iowa): Quintet of siblings whose vaudeville act was so awfully received they sued The Des Moines Leader for reprinting a review that called them "three creatures surpassing the witches in Macbeth in general hideousness." The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in the paper's favor in a case that became a widely cited precedent for fair comment and criticism.

Patricia Repar (New Mexico): Canadian-born composer and performer now on the faculty of the University of New Mexico's music school. Plays something called an "ocean drum," and has been recognized for her extensive studies of music's therapeutic and healing properties.

Ann Ronell (Nebraska): Omaha-born composer of "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"; died 1993. Said to have had an affair with George Gershwin around the time she wrote "Willow Weep for Me" in 1932.

Rosalie Sorrels (Idaho): Singer-songwriter and "songcatcher" who has released several albums and compiled the folk songs, stories, recipes and poems of her native state into the 1991 book Way Out In Idaho: Celebration of Songs and Stories.

Abby Whiteside (South Dakota): Piano teacher (1881-1956) whose "holistic" method challenged traditional classical pedagogy and was closer in spirit to jazz. Her namesake foundation lives on today.


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