DC at Night

DC at Night

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Women Who Rock

In 1963, fledgling record producer Quincy Jones teamed with Teaneck, New Jersey high school junior Lesley Gore to create one of the great pop singles It's My Party. "I remember when I heard It's My Party I had an immediate relationship to it," Gore said years later. "What was it about that song? Probably the little middle-class rebel in me trying desperately to get out"

The young Gore quickly followed up with one of the catchiest answer songs in rock and roll - "Judy's Turn to Cry." But it was her 3rd Top 10 hit - "You Don't Own Me," credited with being the 1st rock feminist anthem, which really unleashed that middle-class rebel. The song is even more revolutionary when you consider its lyrics such as:
And don't tell me what to do
And don't tell me what to say
or
I'm young and I love to be young
I'm free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please
were written at the same time when another popular hit urged:
Oh, Johnny get angry
Johnny get mad
Give me the biggest lecture that I ever had
I want a brave man, I want a cave man
Johnny show me that you care, really care for me

But Gore soon faced a decision. She was graduating high school. She could continue to record and tour full-time or she could go to college. She opted for Sarah Lawrence University. Soon the Beatles and the other British bands invaded and Gore, although she still performs today, never achieved such great heights again.

But her early success and influence was enough to assure her a prominent place in the Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power exhibit put together by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which is now on display at the National Museum for Women in the Arts.

The showcase devoted to Gore and her career is typical of those of the more than 50 women represented.  There is a dress that she wore for her debut at the Plaza Hotel in New York City which was so heavy she could only wear it for one number. There is a special music score touring case given to her by Jones and hand-painted by a fan. There are copies of both lyrics and 45s.

The extensive, informative, visually and historically interesting exhibit is divided into 8 chronological themes. They are:
  • Suffragettes to Juke-Box Mamas: The Foremothers/ Roots of Rock
  • Get Out of That Kitchen, Rattle Those Pots and Pans: Rock Emerges
  • Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow: The Early 1960s/ Girl Groups
  • Revolution, The Counter-Culture & the Pill: The Late 1960s
  • I Will Survive: The 1970s Rockers to Divas
  • Dance to the Music: Punk and Post Punk
  • Causing a Commotion: Madonna and the Pop Explosion
  • Ladies First: The 90s and the New Millennium
All the ladies are represented from Lady Day to Lady Gaga. There are the queens from Aretha to Latifah. Bessie and Ma Rainey are in the house, as are Janis and Gracie.There are the too-soon departed like Donna and Whitney. The great groups from The Ronettes to Bikini Kill. The fashions from Cher's elaborate Bob Mackie special creation to bassist for Sonic Youth Kim Gordon's "Eat Me" black and white T-shirt with a bright red Rolling Stones tongue. The personal instruments which produced the soft sounds of Judy Collins or the hard-edge songs of Joan Jett.

The exhibit ends with Lady Gaga's (then known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) upright childhood piano, which she received from her grandmother. On the top are candid shots of Stefani and her beloved piano, which her mother says she loved from the first time her tiny fingers smacked down on the keys. Looking at those shots, it's had to imagine the Lady Gaga she would become. But for women who rock, with their vision, passion, and power, anything is possible. 

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
You have plenty of time to check out the Women Who Rock exhibit. It isn't scheduled to close until Jan. 6.

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