There are certain elements of popular music that really grab me. A sexy saxophone solo. A biting electric guitar riff. A relentlessly driving beat. A potent lyric that succinctly captures an emotion.
But when it comes right down to it, I get most weak in the knees when I hear an excellent singer. From full-throated rock vocalists to gentle balladeers, from country crooners to feisty R&B wailers, I find myself more often mesmerized by voices than any other instrument in the mix.
And I’ll take this a step further: For the most part, I tend to favor female singers. Sure, I melt when I hear Roger Daltrey, or Marvin Gaye, or Art Garfunkel, or Peter Gabriel, or Willie Nelson. But to my ears, women’s voices have a hard-to-define superior quality. Read More
When rock ‘n roll arrived in 1955, it was heralded by its proponents as nothing short of a musical revolution. Throw out all the old rules, they said, it’s a new morning, and the new guard is here to shake, rattle and roll things up. But this revolutionary “new guard” — guys like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many dozens of pretenders to the throne — was woefully lacking in one key area: They were all men.
Where were all the women?
It’s curious to look back now and see what a boys club it was then, from the singer to the drummer, the producer, the engineer, the label executive, even the record store owner and radio DJ. As in most industries at the time, women in the music business faced discrimination, harassment and outright exclusion by a male power structure. (“You sing great, sweet thing, now let us finish the record and I’ll see you in my dressing room later…”) It seems a shame to me that, except for a few rare trailblazers, women were typically limited exclusively to supporting roles as mere background vocalists, even though sometimes it was the women who had the star power, the pipes, or the songwriting talent that everyone loved.