A Complete Herstory of Women in Music
Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. Women? Playing music? What'll they think of next!? Dogs playing poker? Asians playing hooky? Women playing doctor? In actual hospitals? (It's just a sexy laugh until somebody gets their menses all over the equipment. Bone saws don't grow on trees, you know.) Well. It's come to my attention that the ladies have organized a little coffee klatch for themselves to do their little ditties and jangle their little jingles and toot their little lady-flutes out in a field somewhere. They call it "Thee Lilith Faire" and I guess it has something to do with the Renaissance. And turkey legs and flagons of my lord's finest oak-matured mead. And Bioré strips. And, of course, vibrators. Am I riiiiiight, laaaaaaadies!? Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt.
This curious happening got me curious about past ladies who might have dipped their manicured toes into the international penis-party known as ROCK. And—as it turns out—there are hella of them! Their toes are all up in the penises! And they're actually totally good at music and stuff! (Also, sewing.) For your edification, I have compiled my research into this handy, brief, and disgustingly complete history of women in music. Keep up the good work, ladies! And maybe someday you won't even need to be ghettoized into your own cute little lady-festival. Hahahahaahahaahah. Oh, me. Actual lolz.
LILITH, ca. 1450 BC
Original member of Pharaoh Thutmose III and the Blowfish; quit "once they started to get all ska." Played bass guitar.
KASSIA, ca. AD 810
This chick was hella into Jesus and stuff. She invented something called a Byzantine chant, which is like regular music only one million times more boring. For her troubles she was probably drowned in a creek. (Witch.) Lady-music had nowhere to go but up.
ETHEL MERMAN, 1908–1984
JULIE ANDREWS, 1935–present
Began her career as a flying wet nurse from space, but gave it all up (even space) to devote herself to international espionage. After single-handedly dismantling England's banking system armed with only a tuppence, "just for the shits of it," Julie Andrews moved deep into the Austrian countryside and began training her sinister army of Aryan child warriors to defeat Nazis through the power of song, which they did. Immediately. That's why Nazis are extinct now. Then, in a controversial move still hotly debated to this day, the United States ended the war by dropping Andrews on Hiroshima in 1945. She would never sing again. Also, Hiroshima is not funny.
MAMA CASS, 1941–1974
Proved that no matter how good you are at singing, people are going to make fun of you for being fat and having a face like Rodney Dangerfield (and not young, hot Rodney Dangerfield, either!)—EVEN DECADES AFTER YOU ARE DEAD. Mama Cass died trying to eat an entire six-foot party sub in one sitting. Her famous last words: "No, I can do it!" Let this be a cautionary tale to all you fat people: Never, ever, ever die. You will never hear the end of it.
ARETHA FRANKLIN, 1942–present
Magnificent singing career overshadowed by magnificent hat worn at President Obama's inauguration. Doesn't give a fuck.
JANIS JOPLIN, 1943–1970
Totally high all the time. Wore sunglasses indoors.
JONI MITCHELL, 1943–present
Ooh! Ooh! Did you hear that she has that crazy-ass imaginary disease where multicolored pipe cleaners grow out of your skin and make you go crazy until you can't control your own feet??? That shit is called Morgellons, and if you haven't heard about it, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. Anyway, Joni Mitchell insists she has it and gets really mad if you call it a "crazy-ass imaginary disease." Which I guess you would, too, IF YOU HAD IMAGINARY PIPE CLEANERS GROWING OUT OF YOUR SKIN. Mitchell is pretty great, except when she gets mixed up with some saxophones. Ladies, can we please lay off the saxophones?
THE RUNAWAYS, 1975–1979
Most people don't realize that international chainsaw-carving luminary Cherie Currie carved out an early career for herself as a girl-band singer (and carved great big holes into mountains of cocaine)! Sure, we all know the animalistic smoothness of a signature Currie grizzly flank; we know that her haughty lawn Indians are pure poetry; we know that each time she coaxes a mermaid's bosoms from the soul of a simple log, a grateful world weeps in unison. But did you know she's also something called "your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb"? Yeah. Me neither.
Made out with Britney Spears. Grew really big arms. Died.
SINÉAD O'CONNOR, 1966–present
Irish iconoclast and noted bald, Sinéad O'Connor's career was derailed in 1992 when she went on television and tore up a picture of the pope. The world, pretending they gave a shit about the pope (what are you people TALKING ABOUT!?), got all pissed and fired her from being famous. Then, years later, everyone realized that the pope isn't a religious leader so much as the CEO of the world's largest and oldest and least repentant little-boy-butthole-touching factory. Then we were like, "Oops." O'Connor, ever the classy bald, didn't even say, "I told you so."
COURTNEY LOVE, 1964–present
It's like if someone made a candle shaped like a lady, and then melted it, and then stuck wax lips on the melted pile of sadness goo, and then melted those, and then hired Cherie Currie to chainsaw-sculpt the whole thing back into a vaguely woman-shaped shape, and then stuck a new pair of wax lips on it, and then gave it a computer and a child to care for! It's like that.
I'm not sure if Björk really belongs on this list, seeing as she is technically an Icelandic wood sprite, and all the Northern European elf races are matriarchal and thus their females haven't faced institutionalized sexism comparable to human women in the arts. Nevertheless, she does take the form of a human woman in her dealings with men. Wielder of one ring of power and multiple platinum records.
THE BASS GUITAR, mostly the 1990s
The instrument that really shattered the glass ceiling for rock 'n' roll ladies and their stubby little baby-fingers. It only has four strings! You can count to four, right? Look at you go—you can even play in a band with dude musicians! (See: Superchunk, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, the Pixies, the Dandy Warhols, My Bloody Valentine, Black Flag, Pharaoh Thutmose III and the Blowfish [orig. lineup].)
RIOT GRRRL, 1991–???
Thrrrd-wave feminist punk-rock movement founded in London, England, by musicians Baby Spice, Sporty Spice, Ginger Spice, Posh Spice, and Scary Spice.
SISTER MARY CLARENCE, Sister Act–Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
Finally taught nuns how to be funky again. Discovered Lauryn Hill.
SHERYL CROW, 1962–present
An actual crow—do not engage in direct eye contact, and conceal all shiny baubles and trinkets.
ANI DIFRANCO, 1970–present
Her alternative hair and nose ring made it okay for teenage girls to be lesbians sometimes and other times not. Voted for Nader.
ALANIS MORISSETTE, 1974–present
Went down on Dave Coulier in a theater. Never forget.
MEREDITH BROOKS, July 1997–Aug 1997
Revolutionized modern femininity with the super-helpful revelation that women are bitches. Never heard from again.
ERYKAH BADU, 1971–present
Splendid-Dictator-for-Life of Neo-Soul, Erykah Badu has fornicated with both Andre 3000 and Common. She recently created controversy when she took her clothes off at the JFK Got Shot Place in downtown Dallas in front of a bunch of people who apparently do not possess human breasts and bottoms. When concerned parents—who were just trying to enjoy a wholesome afternoon thinking about the spilled brain matter of a president—were all, "Heyyyyy, Badu! My kids can see your whole entire bottom and they might never recover!" Badu responded (seriously), "I didn't think about them until I saw them, and in my mind I tried to telepathically communicate my good intent to them. That's all I could do, and I hoped they wouldn't be traumatized." Did you hear that? BADU CAN SPEAK TO CHILDREN AND ANIMALS WITH HER MIND. All hail Badu.
LADY GAGA, 1986–present
JUSTINE BIEBER, 1994–present