International Women’s Day

Thoughts on inspirational female singers and songwriters

I thought about explaining the reason and importance of international Women’s Day…. but really! Mansplaining a (his)story seems, and is in fact, wrong on so many levels.

So, I’m just going to talk about a few of the women artists that I love and who have shaped my world and made it a far, far better place. Most, if not, all have their personal stories of struggle against casual unthinking sexism, explicit vengeful misogyny and a powerful patriarchal business which exploits and undermines them. Some, too many, have experienced sexual assault and abuse.

Those stories are easy to find and I urge to you to seek them out and begin to understand the rough waters that these women swim in. But below is just a celebration of the joy they bring.

Tracey Thorn: A songwriter that has an exquisitely light emotional touch. Her songs resonate with a touching realism which connects with our ordinary, everyday lives. Her career from the DIY post-punk songs of the Marine Girls, through to the genre defying Everything But The Girl and on to a solo selection of records, is populated by songs which, like great literature, hold a mirror up to our times and our emotions. On her most recent album “Record” she addresses the issues such as need for a “Me Too” movement, the impact of social media on a broken heart and the wonderful, joyful “Dancefloor” – an evocation of the endless discos of our endless youth. “It’s where I want to be…”

Maria Callas: A voice which simultaneously has all the frailty and strength, anguish and hope and ultimately the aching beauty of the many tortured operatic characters she sings. No! That’s wrong. She doesn’t sing, but rather she inhabits the music. Like the greatest actors she enlivens the words on the page, the notes on the score. For those unfamiliar with opera, look no further. Maria Callas is the top of the tree. And those of us familiar with the art form, know that it is a truth universally acknowledged, she is simply peerless.

Sharon Jones: A soul singer. Pure and simple. Sometimes in this day and age, especially if you ever watch entertainment like “The Voice” we may question what that title means. An artist who exhibits their soul, without vocal gymnastics or pyrotechnics, but just with the plaintive expression of raw emotion. The Late Sharon Jones knew that “What comes from the heart, reaches the heart”. Her records are alive with catchy tunes, a damn fine band and most importantly a voice which will get under your skin.

Neneh Cherry: “What is he like?” Neneh comes from an impressive and important linage. That small but crucial cohort of female punks. Their influence on what came after is a book in itself. Neneh manages to harness all the energy, the attitude and the musicality. She brings an edge and aggressiveness to her work which is fantastic. Though this is no angry polemic. Borrowing from and fusing Jazz, Rap, Soul and Punk, she has a body of work which is exceptional and deserves serious attention.

Kathryn Williams: Nominated for a Mercury Award in 2000, Kathryn sits at the very top table of songwriters. Viscerally honest as a writer and performer. With a career of over 20 years, Kathryn does not easily fit into any limiting genre classification. Her songs resonate with a quiet passion and searing intelligence. Maybe that’s making them sound difficult. Well, they ain’t. Pick any of her 14 albums and you will think you’ve found a new best friend. If you ever get the opportunity to see her live – just go! You won’t regret it.

I could go on and on and on, and I’ve missed out Carol Kaye (the world’s best Bassist ever!), Nina Simone, Joan Armatrading, Amy Winehouse, June Tabor, Rickie Lee Jones …amongst many more…..

But hey now! On this day why don’t you share yours? Who do you love and why?