Founding member of the Supremes Mary Wilson has sadly died at the age of 76, leaving behind a lasting legacy in Motown and music history. While the famous story of the band’s unravelling pits Diana Ross against Florence Ballard, the narrative that is often overlooked is how Mary survived as a Supreme through the whole ordeal, continuing the band after Ballard was dismissed and Ross went stratospherically solo. Mary’s story is one of quiet endurance and commitment to performance and style – beautifully told in her recent book ‘Supreme Glamour’. Continue reading “Remembering Mary Wilson and her ‘Supreme Glamour’”
When the world was dark and all seemed lost there was one person we could rely on to bring some light, some joy, some sparkle, even a potential cure for coronavirus and that was Saint Dolly Parton. Some have called for her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, others requested the vaccine she helped to fund be named after her (or Jolene). It’s Dolly’s world and we’re all just blessed to be living at the same time as this beacon of hope for humanity. Continue reading “Book Review: Dolly Parton – ‘Songteller – My Life in Lyrics’”
Last year in her song ‘The Greatest’ Lana Del Rey, with an eerie prescience, predicted the nightmarish world we are now living in. She sang about how the world was burning, how she missed New York, missed the music, how Kanye West was gone, how the livestream was on…calling it the greatest loss of them all. We didn’t know what we had til it was gone.
Some albums win end of year polls and are forgotten as soon as the year turns. Others define the mood of a whole era, and for me Norman Fucking Rockwell, with its bittersweet odes to our painful modern reality, does just that.
The final song on the album ‘hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it’ is a necessary reminder that even in dystopian, pandemic hell we must need to cling to beauty, music, poetry, hope above all else.
In that song Lana described herself as 24/7 Sylvia Plath, which some may raise an eyebrow at – after all this is an artist who has long used such reference points as part of her glamodrama musical aesthetic. But this was no throwaway lyric. Lana was serious about writing poetry and has now published her first collection Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass. Continue reading “On Lana Del Rey and the sweet gift of ‘Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass’”
I had planned on discussing another book this month but then I happened to start reading ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ by Lily Allen and after finishing it in one sitting I knew I had to write about this blisteringly brilliant biography. In the introduction Lily explains the reasons behind her decision to write her story. I am writing this because writing is what I do, it’s both my living and the way I live, the way I make sense of things, the way I try to learn my lessons. Biography becomes another way to express her art, her truth. Women in music need a voice like Lily’s to be heard, someone who has been through the intense scrutiny of fame and survived. Continue reading “Book Review: On ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ by Lily Allen”
In her work ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’ Angela Davis states her aim is to discover what we can learn from three pioneers of blues music: Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. She wants to look beyond biography to investigate how their work reflected feminist attitudes and helped shaped black consciousness. The work is academic in tone and purpose, a rightfully serious but also personally passionate account of the significance of these often overlooked artists and their legacies. By placing their music in a wider sociocultural context, Davis gives these women the respect and acclaim they so richly deserve. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’ by Angela Davis”
Earlier this year when I was in the music section of the book shop I was disappointed to see only one book written by a woman. That spurred me on to starting this monthly book club, so I thought it would only be fitting then to review the one book which I saw on the shelf. From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl is not just the story of her son’s rise to fame but also an interesting and thought provoking project where she interviews and writes about the mothers of musicians such as Miranda Lambert, Haim, Michael Stipe and Kelly Clarkson. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘From Cradle to Stage’ by Virginia Hanlon Grohl”
In 1965 aged just 20 Linda Ronstadt left behind her Arizona home and headed off to Los Angeles in the hope of becoming a success on the folk music scene. The night she left her father took gave her a gift of a Martin acoustic guitar and told her what his Mexican father had once said to him: “Ahora que tienes guitarra, nunca tendras hambre” (Now you own a guitar you will never go hungry). Those words would prove true. Ronstadt’s long and illustrious career is explored in Simple Dreams, her excellent self-penned memoir which takes us from the deserts of her childhood, to her chart success and beyond. Continue reading “Book Review: Linda Ronstadt’s ‘Simple Dreams’”
Welcome to the first music book club post! After a dispiriting bookshop visit last month (read more here) I have decided to review a book about music written by a woman every month, starting with ‘Composed’ by Rosanne Cash. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Composed’ by Rosanne Cash”
‘Book Week Scotland’ might not mean a lot to many people beyond bonnie Caledonia but this campaign to promote reading gives me a nice excuse to write about the myriad connections between my two favourite things: books and music. My first post was about songs inspired by female writers and today I’m going to recommend some of my favourite books about music written by women. Continue reading “Books About Music Written By Women”