“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation” comes the pithy line from 19th century religious leader Brigham Young. Whilst it probably isn’t prudent to open a blog celebrating women with a quote by one of the world’s most famous polygamists (55 wives!?), it is a quote that has stuck with me since I first heard it. And, I believe, it is a sentiment which continues to hold its merit. When women are free to position themselves how they see fit in the world, everybody benefits.
A pertinent example is how female leaders dealt with Covid. Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and Finland’s Sanna Marin have attracted many headlines over the last year, but an analysis of 194 countries, published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum suggests that the staggering difference in Covid deaths to that of their male counterparts may not be a coincidence. Even once you remove the obvious outliers such as Germany and New Zealand for the female team, and the absolute shit show that was the US approach for male leaders, the case for relative success for female leaders was only strengthened.
The successes don’t stop there. Anybody noticed how YouTube has become far more prevalent in our lives over the last decade? Female CEO. Own a Playstation, Xbox, Samsung smartphone or (let’s hope not) a UAV military defence drone? Know what they all have in common? AMD hardware. AMD? Female CEO. Attempted to find love throughout lockdown? Chances are you’ve used an app owned by MagicLabs. Female CEO. Drank a Heineken? Female CEO.
I want to make it clear, however, that these achievements don’t necessarily characterise success. I have a friend who wanted nothing more than to be a “traditional housewife” but felt like she would be letting feminism down if she didn’t “strive for something more”. It took her a while to come to terms with how feminism is about her right to choose to be whatever she wants. Some people aren’t suited for the spotlight. Why do you think I’m just a bassist?
Anyway, to celebrate the many roles women fulfil in society on International Women’s Day, we have created a special playlist for you lovely lot which features some of our favourite women in the industry. Some are absolute power houses of rock, such as Skunk Anansie lead singer Skin who, as well as being one of the most entertaining live artists to come out of rock music, was also the first black, British artist to headline Glastonbury, over a decade before Beyonce (who also features in our playlist) and two decades before Stormzy. Some feature our behind-the-scenes heroes including Carol Kaye and Sheila E., who have played on pretty much everything, though for our top picks, we have The Beach Boys, which Carol kindly provided the low end for, and one of Sheila’s many solo albums. We’ve a selection of traditional jazz greats, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Esperanza Spalding, who did a cover of our song I Know You Know (just kidding, she wrote her version years before us), some selections from the greats who may not appear on the record, but whose engineering/producing/mixing skills have cemented them in our minds, such as Sylvia Massy, and also some tracks from relatively unknown artists who we think should be far bigger than they are, and inspire us every day, such as Erika and Beady Belle. All in all, it’s pretty slamming, so get your ears around it.
Finally, I’m acutely aware of the irony surrounding a straight, white, male musician (well, bass player, but close enough) writing this blog post, so I figured the best people to tell you how fucking great women are, are themselves. So I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from some of my favourite women in the industry for you to read, whilst you bop your head along to their magnificent creations.
Here’s to women, in all their guises. You do you, today and always.
Unending love, Jason AKA JB1
“When you hear somebody with balls, that’s me” Carol Kaye
“Now more than ever, it’s incumbent on every one of us to raise up the next generation of female leaders, so at the future Women in Music events, the executive of the year will stand up here and thank a woman for being her mentor. Now it’s time to change the industry for the better. It’s all right here, in how we support each other, in how we’re committed to providing young women with a safer environment free from harassment and discrimination.” Julie Greenwald
“I absolutely have encountered sexism in the music industry. I don’t look at myself as a victim…And certain behaviour has been passed down and it’s been accepted, and I think it’s up to us as women not to accept it and lead by example. I won’t allow myself to be oppressed.” Janelle Monae
“You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it’s just complaining.” Joni Mitchell
“People were suspicious of a pretty woman making music on her own, with a vision. They couldn’t handle me. It was like: ‘It cannot be true that you can have lipstick on and make music.’” Nina Kraviz
“Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” Lady Gaga
“Everyone looks to an artist for something more than just the music, and that message of being comfortable in my own skin is number one for me.” Lizzo
“I’ve always been fascinated about how much more well-behaved we have to be than men. I did get a moniker of being a ‘diva,’ which I never felt I deserved — which I don’t deserve. I’ve always been a hard worker, always on time, always professional.” Jennifer Lopez
“All that stuff about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is so not true. Do you know what makes you stronger? When people treat you and your art with dignity.” Lana Del Rey
“Music makes us want to live. You don’t know how many times people have told me that they’d been down …But then a special song caught their ear and that helped give them renewed strength. That’s the power music has.” Mary J. Blige
“Other people call me a rebel, but I feel like i’m just living my life and doing what I want to do. Sometimes people call that rebellion, especially when you’re a woman.” Joan Jett
“If I was a guy and I was wearing these baggy clothes, nobody would bat an eye. There’s people out there saying, ‘Dress like a girl for once! Wear tight clothes you’d be much prettier and your career would be so much better!’ No it wouldn’t.” Billie Eilish
“For a female artist, it takes a lot more to be taken seriously if you’re not sat down at a piano or with a guitar, you know? For a male artist, people instantly assume they write their own music, but for women, they assume it’s all manufactured.” Dua Lipa
“I’ve never felt this proud to be a woman in the industry than I do today. And that’s because I actually feel comfortable with every single woman that has encouraged me about how crucial it is that the voices that are being heard for the first time is so great.” Selena Gomez