The women’s music book, so far

I’m writing a book about the early days of women’s music, especially the performers of the 70’s and 80’s. The rest of the industry will be represented, too.  I started this enormous endeavor in 2011, not long after Therese Edell passed away. Hers was the first live women’s music I ever heard, so she’s always had a special place in my heart. I got to thinking about all the women we’ve already lost – Ginni Clemmens, Maxine Feldman, Kay Gardner, and more – and decided to write a book before anyone else was gone. Also, while we have a few articles, a couple of book chapters, books about mainstream women musicians, and a movie, there is no book about women’s music, except Bonnie MorrisEden Built By Eves, the Culture of Women’s Music Festivals (which I love and I’m not saying that just ‘cause I’m in it). I want to build on the work she started.

hot wire

So, far it’s been quite an adventure. While I’ve written a lot of magazine articles, a couple of book chapters and this blog, I’d never written a book. (At least, not in 2011. Since then, I finished another book. More about that later.) I started with a list of women I wanted to interview, a pile of Hot Wire magazines and a browser pointed to JD Doyle’s wonderful Queer Music Heritage. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.  With some time and a lot of good chocolate, I’ve written a couple of chapters and organized my notes. However, that interview list keeps growing.

alix dobkinSo far, I’ve done fifteen interviews and studied hundreds of pages of Hot Wire, Paid My Dues, JD’s site and many other resources. The interviews have been a blast. The first one was with Alix Dobkin. I’ve known her for years and I knew she’d be fun to interview. When I complimented her on her book, My Red Blood, she responded that what she was aiming for was a collection of good stories. That’s what I want with my book. I’d like it to be accurate enough for use in women’s studies classes, but I also want something that’s entertaining.

I’ve already got some really great stories. One of my favorites came from Lisa Vogel, the director of the Michigan Womyn’s* Music Festival. She told me that in the early days, the festival was so strapped for funds that they rented lumber. Rented it. They would carefully put one nail in each end, so that when it was returned, it was still in good shape. She laughed when she told me about it, saying that sometimes they would ask for the most outrageous things, and people would say yes, simply because they didn’t know how else to respond.

margie adam

Photo by Photo by Donna A. Korones.

Margie Adam spoke with great energy about the early days of women’s music, like some of those events happened yesterday, even though she hasn’t done a performance in several years. (She’s a therapist now. Yep, that’s Dr. Adam to you.)

With every interview, I find out something cool about women’s music. I can’t wait to share it with you. It’ll be awhile, though. I’m hoping to finish the book in 2015.

A couple of women have elected not to be interviewed. One performer said that it was because she was writing her memoir. I respect her decision. At least she was courteous. Another musician rudely turned me down because she thought that I was writing an expose full of sex. Not even close. Ah well, I’ll just depend on the other resources I have when I talk about her.

It’s not just the stars who have entertaining stories. Did you attend a women’s music concert or festival in the 70’s? I’d love to hear about it. Contact me here or post a comment below. I’m also interested in hearing from anyone who listened to lesbian and feminist performers prior to the 70’s. There’s woefully little about those early musicians. Thank God (Goddess? Universe?) for JD’s wonderful site or I wouldn’t know about half of them.

While I have a working title for the book, I’m not ready to reveal it. Mostly, it’s for my personal files, because I need to call it something besides Meg Christian Looked So Adorable in Suspenders.

If you’re as interested in women’s music as I am, you might want to check out my other blog posts about women’s music. Find them here.

Oh and that other book I mentioned earlier? It’s a memoir that I wrote between gigs and guitar students. I have a publisher and it’ll be out in 2014. I’ll post more details as I know them.

Enough blabbing – I’ve got some interviewees to pester, er, contact.


 *My inner English teacher balks at the alternative spellings of “women,” but I understand that others don’t, so I’m using the spelling that the festival does.

My apologies for not including photo credits. If you know who took the photos above, please let me know and I’ll add the credit.

About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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6 Responses to The women’s music book, so far

  1. JD Doyle says:

    And I’m much looking forward to the book as well, I’m ready to learn. Also, I am honored, and a bit amused, that in talking about a book about women’s music you mentioned a guy (me) more than another single woman…:) Well, hey, we got this mutual admiration society thing goin’ on…:)

  2. Cindi says:

    I did a LOT of stage lighting and sound for Women’s concerts in Lincoln, NE and Minneapolis in the 70’s and 80’s. Interesting work. Most of the women musicians INSISTED that the work was done by a woman. Esp. in Lincoln, there weren’t many of woman techs at that time. Ah, the bane of small cities. Most humorous story was trying to find the right turquoise gel that wouldn’t turn Holly Near’s red hair a ghastly shade of purple. Don’t think I EVER got that right. From a concert I lit for Meg Christian I DID get a good song idea, and wrote a piece called “Woman in the Wings” — about the people backstage that make it work while the “star” is on stage. I miss the 70’s and the 80’s.

  3. Cindi says:

    Sure — and if you’re ever in Edmonton or Red Deer, I’ll do your lights : )
    PS –
    There were a LOT of interesting stories from backstage back then – most of which I wouldn’t put in print. Hate to say it, but there wasn’t much difference between men and women performers as to how the techs were treated. As Joan Baez wrote “Idols are best when they’re made of stone and a hero’s a nuisance to live with at home.” However, the BEST performer I ever worked with was Adrian Torf, who was accompanying Holly Near one year. That whole gang was the most professional group I’ve ever worked with…and Addy was a true gem. And Linda Tillery- who was and STILL is a consummate professional.

  4. Pingback: Drive All Night, so far | Jamiebobamie

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