Monday 23 March 2015

Women Musicians

Nicola Benedetti
When I decided to write this blog and I started to go through my photos of women musicians, I felt quite emotional about these wonderful artists - over the incredible gigs they have performed and the insightful songs they have written. Women have powerful voices. Women are often the heart of any home and strong families matter. When women are not respected countries and societies are the weaker for it.

Recently we have witnessed in the UK the huge success of several female singer songwriters – Adele, Emeli Sande, Laura Marling and several others.  I have been fortuate to follow Emeli's career since 2007 and i never imagined that I would see her sing at the London Olympic Games one day!

Laura Marling

I have noted that female rock bands have come over from America - Warpaint, Haim, The Bangles and others - and there are few female rock bands here in the UK.  

I was surprised to learn recently that women's numbers generally in music though are very small.  I was pretty surprised to learn some of the statistics - a PRS (Publishing Rights Society) statistic showed that only 14%  of its members were female. Other statistics -  BBC Proms - 4% women,
BBC Introducing compilations CD - women have 7 tracks out of 32 tracks.

In February 2015 singer songwriter Beth Orton looked at the lack of women generally in the world of music and the ways women might deal with the challenges today in the music biz with an event in Manchester.
Emeli Sande
Julie Fowlis

Certainly the Grammy's and Brits are testament to this - where women are viewed as 'youthful decoration.' Some women of course play along to this stereotype in ridiculous revealing outfits.  Another issue is that women are not allowed to age (??)  Yet look at the strong older women in the film industry and the positive image and role models they create - Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfry, Helen Mirren and others.

It is better in the folk world (and for writers) for women generally speaking - where age is viewed more as an asset and gender seems irrelevant in the main

Rab Noakes & Barbara Dickson
Cara Dillon
*Beverly Martyn (or Bev Kutner)
I also read the story of Beverly Martyn who co-wrote many of John Martyn's early songs but received little recognition - John told her not to worry and that she would get the credits.  Bev played piano while they wrote songs together for the album Solid Air and John would say that he would ‘credit her on the next song!’  Bev and Martyn recorded three albums together  - Stormbringer, Road to Ruin and Bless the Weather - before John was persuaded by his record label to go solo. Beverly was then left on the house on the hill to raise their children while John toured. I wrote about her here –

There are also several forgotten women poets.

Orchestra's have been mostly male - the Viennese Orchestra that plays Strauss for the New Years Day concert - it was all men until recent times when they have allowed in a few women musicians.

I read recently too of *Mrs Bach!  In the Age of Enlightenment (18TH Century) most women would never write under their own name and so they have been forgotten by history.

Sara Watkins

Mrs Bach – or rather Anna Magdelena – has been now revealed as the author of the cello suites by forensic musicologist Professor Martin Jarvis of Charles Darwin university in Australia. Anna has been airbrushed from history (much as many women painters have been) .
The program claims that she was the composer of the Cello Suites and more perhaps. Magdalena was a gifted soprano and came from a family of musicians and it is believed was writing with Johann Sebastian Bach from the age of 12.  After her death, Bach's older sons by his first marriage, had Magdalena air-brushed from the records and no composer Day books or family portraits have survived. Bach's first biography was written fifty years after his death. Bach was also blind for much for his life. 
Jarvis has been investigating the story for 25 years and the program is narrated by composer Sally Beamish. -

One of the greatest musicians and songwriters of modern times has been Canadian Joni Mitchell.
My Photo Gallery of Women Musicians here - musicians

Stevie Nicks