Let Us Now Praise the Women. Who. Rock!

I heard Kate Bush on the radio the other day and the idea for this post sprang into my head. I’ve already written about Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Chrissie Hynde, Bonnie Raitt, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and pioneer band Fanny. (Stevie Nicks will have her day.)

In England, Kate Bush is somewhat of a goddess. Per Wikipedia, in 2002, she was recognized with an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. In October 2017 she was nominated for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 2018. Bush was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to music.

That’s some heavy-duty recognition. Yet here in the States, while she’s largely known to a certain generation of rock fans, she is by no means a household name or recognized quite on the same level. I read once that she may well have opted not to pursue a career here as intensely as some other Brits did. But that aside. she is a formidable talent.

I think that the two biggest FM hits she had here were her 1986 duet with Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up.” And from 1985’s Hounds of Love, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God.)”

Of the song, Bush has said, “I was trying to say that, really, a man and a woman can’t understand each other because we are a man and a woman. And if we could actually swap each other’s roles, if we could actually be in each other’s place for a while, I think we’d both be very surprised!” (I thought it was about the Boston Marathon – ME.)

Spotify link

How the hell did I get almost four years into a blog and not write about the great Tina Turner? (Thirty lashes = at least – with a wet noodle.) Wikipedia:

“Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock) is a retired singer, songwriter, and actress who is internationally recognized. Turner rose to prominence with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm before recording hit singles both with Ike and as a solo performer. One of the best-selling recording artists of all time, she has been referred to as The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll and has sold more than 200 million records worldwide. Turner is noted for her energetic stage presence, powerful vocals, career longevity, and trademark legs.” (I too have trademark legs – ME.)

I saw Ike and Tina back in the day on a bill with the Beach Boys and Boz Scaggs. Energetic is an understatement. Even though it pains me in any way to feature the loathsome Ike Turner, by the same token not featuring her take on “Proud Mary” would be – to use a word I keep hearing lately – grounds for impeachment.

Spotify link

Right from their debut album, 1975’s Dreamboat Annie, Heart have been a force to be reckoned with. In a male-dominated rock world where many guys (both fans and musicians) said, “Aw, geez, chicks don’t rock,” these two proved them wrong. Yes, they have a male-backed band. But make no mistake whose band it is and that Ann and Nancy Wilson have the hearts – if you will – of rockers, of true believers. Their covers of Zep are some of the best ever.

They put out a series of tunes in the ’70s and ’80s that to this day help define so-called classic rock radio – “Magic Man,” “Barracuda,” “Kick it Out,” “Straight On,” “Even It Up,” and the wonderful “These Dreams.” They sold about a billion albums and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. They are still (and currently) touring

I’m going to here go with a tune from Dreamboat Annie, “Crazy On You.” That great acoustic intro (that I have to learn one day) is played by Nancy Wilson which turned heads because women were “supposed to” just strum, sing and look pretty.

Spotify link

I mentioned that I already did a piece on Chrissie Hynde with the Pretenders. And so, yeah, fuck it. Sue me. Nobody rocks harder than she does. I’ll keep my comments on the band brief here so go over and read that post to get the full picture. Then come back here and listen to “Message of Love.”

The reason we’re here
Every man every woman
Is to help each other
Stand by each other

Spotify link

A couple of years ago my wife and I went to see Pat Benatar at the House of Blues. I wasn’t a gigantic fan but I liked some of her stuff and she – together with husband Neil Geraldo – nailed it on every tune. The interesting thing about Benatar is that she is a classically trained singer who had to “unlearn” that training to become a rocker.

“My dream was to be the singer in a rockin’ band, like Robert Plant was to Led Zeppelin or Lou Gramm to Foreigner,” she says, quoted on biography.com. “The sound I heard in my head was raucous, with hard-driving guitars speeding everything forward. I was a classically trained singer with a great deal of musical knowledge, but I had no idea how to make that visceral, intense sound happen. I had to evolve, but I didn’t know how to make that evolution happen.”

She eventually did and was a force in the early days of MTV. “Love is a Battlefield” is a great song with a cool video.

Spotify link

We wrap up our tour of the Women Who Rock with Debbie Harry. Blondie burst out of the New York punk scene of the mid-to-late ’70s, becoming a regular at the now legendary CBGB’s. (The name derived from comments made by truck drivers who catcalled “Hey, Blondie” to Harry as they drove past.)

Despite being a New York band, interestingly their first commercial success was in Australia. It wasn’t until Blondie’s third album, Parallel Lines was released in September 1978 that they broke through big-time. Their “disco-infused” Heart of Glass” fueled the album and it sold 20 million copies worldwide. (I am hardly a disco fan but like “Miss You” for the Stones, it’s possible to take that beat and make it something not only danceable but also fun to listen to.)

Fun fact – don’t go looking for the original version of “Call Me” on a Blondie album. Mabye a reissue. But it’s actually the theme song to the 1980 Richard Gere film, American Gigolo. And it was a smash. Co-written by Harry.

Spotify link

Is the band on tour? Well, it turns out Debbie has written a memoir and is doing a book tour if that sort of thing floats your boat.

24 thoughts on “Let Us Now Praise the Women. Who. Rock!

  1. Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes has a new solo album out. I really love her soulful delivery on the Alabama Shakes records, and on this new solo album she gets into more experimental material. She’s worth a mention for sure.
    When you’re talking roots rock we can’t forget women like Mavis Staples and Aretha. Gotta love that Mavis is more prolific than ever (her new album is my top album this year).
    Also, Neko Case, Karen O, Anita Robinson of Viva Voce (husband and wife duo that hass sadly broken up), Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), The Breeders.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brittany Howard, yeah she’s great. Mavis too but is she really a rocker per se? Always thought of her as soul or gospel. Aretha I did a whole series on a while back. Minus the Breeders and Neko Case, the rest I’m unfamiliar with.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is both a great list and a great idea.

    As a ‘related’ note: I once knew a chap who’d worked with a lot of local musicians (you can’t swing a cat round my way without hitting one) and he’d spent a little time with Ms Bush. Main recollection, and this is pretty much verbatim as it made me spew coffee at the time and has left a mark was (spoken in a similar manner to the roadie on DSOTM) “mad as a fucking hatter that one. No table in her house except a bloody snooker table – everyone sitting around that eating their breakfast and making sure nothing falls down the pockets”


  3. One of the reasons Kate Bush never made the impact on America that she did on the rest of the world is that to ‘crack’ the States you have to tour extensively and unfortunately, she is terrified of air travel. Bowie was the same but he was ambitious enough to overcome it. Kate Bush never has.
    Sigh, I was so in love with her when I was a teen.


    1. Yeah, you and I discussed her a little while back. Although I didn’t recall her air travel issues. I believe it was you that I told ‘Wuthering Heights’ was by no means a hit here. I barely know it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, and the runaway scenes in the ‘Love is a Battlefield’ video were shot one town over from where I presently live (I can actually walk there from where I’m typing this). The house is in Clinton NJ.


  5. There are great female rockers out there, as your examples definitely illustrate. Other than “Running Up That Hill”, “Wuthering Heights” and her duo with Peter Gabriel “Don’t Give Up,” which I think is fantastic, I essentially don’t know Kate Bush.

    Tina Turner is the only of your featured artists I’ve seen in concert. In fact, I was at one of the shows in Germany where they recorded “Tina Live in Europe” from 1988. For two and a half hours, Turner in impossibly high heels jumped around on stage like it was the last time – absolutely unbelievable!

    Nancy Wilson is a great guitarist. I recall seeing her many years ago with Ann Wilson on VH1, doing an acoustically oriented gig. It was really great. And who can forget their killer performance of “Stairway to Heaven” at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2012, making Jimmy Page and Robert Plant well up? In fact, I hope you don’t mind that I’m including a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFxOaDeJmXk


    1. My Kate Bush list isn’t much longer than yours I’m afraid. Seems to be a UK phenomenon and one (or two) hit wonder elsewhere. Tina was great in her day. Retired now, living in Switzerland. She’s gotten rid of the heels and the makeup so she’s not going for that sexpot image any more. But let us say she’s aging gracefully.

      I really like Nancy Wilson and yeah, I actually considered adding that link. Alas, no one will see it as this post is now a little older.

      Liked by 1 person

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