SHE'S A REBEL by Gillian G. Gaar


The History of Women in Rock & Roll
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 A first-rate rock-'n'-roll history with enough lively detail and thoughtful analysis to put to shame the marginalization of women rockers decried by Gaar (editor of the music magazine The Rocket). Tracing the growth of the industry from its roots in late-40's rhythm and blues through today's video-driven stylings, Gaar exposes the consistent double bind of women ``frequently not seen as having the commercial potential of a male artist, and so...not given the chance to demonstrate that they could indeed sell records.'' Though saddled with an unshakable novelty image, women- -from Willie Mae Thornton (whose 1953 hit, ``Hound Dog,'' written for her, far predated Elvis's version), through the ``girl groups'' of the 1960's and the 1970's singer-songwriters, to the legions of punk, post-punk, pop, and rap performers of the past decade--have nonetheless established themselves as durable hit-makers. Drawing on the often rueful comments of her subjects (``You weren't really expressing yourself creatively, past proving to the world that girls could play like guys,'' recalls one), and on an extensive knowledge of both the artistic and business aspects of the music world, Gaar ably grounds her study against the larger context of social change, including the waxing and waning tides of feminism and prejudice. Most poignant is the odd juxtaposition of late performers Karen Carpenter and Janis Joplin, the former ``destroyed by the limitations inherent in playing the role of the good girl as Joplin had been destroyed by the limitations in playing the role of the bad.'' A number of minor inaccuracies (e.g., incorrectly marrying off Grace Slick and Paul Kantner) and some iffy grammar are rare weak points in an otherwise excellent, unusually comprehensive social and musical chronicle. Essential reading for rock fans--particularly those with large record collections and open minds. (Sixty b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1992
ISBN: 1-878067-08-7
Page count: 450pp
Publisher: Seal Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992