Episode 2: The Early Female Rock Pioneers

I learned everything about music from Kurt Cobain. Before my friend Lauren turned me onto Nirvana I was listening to top 40 crap that my mom listened to. But Cobain changed my life. Before Nirvana I thought all my parents music was just old people stuff. Kurt taught me about the greatness of everyone from Leadbelly to Bowie and the Beatles.

What Cobain also did was teach male audiences about female musicians. It’s because of Kurt that I know Bikini Kill, Joan Jett, etc. Yeah, I probably would have discovered those artists on my own, but it’s important to note for the sake of this conversation.

What has always bothered me is the lack of appreciation for the early women of rock and roll. Thanks to Cobain, the spotlight has been lit brighter on women, and (as least in my opinion) women today are the only one’s doing anything worthwhile with music, outside of Dawes and Jason Isbell.

But we have done a terrible job talking about the women who set the foundation for music in America. I started this podcast series by talking about Robert Johnson, but I probably should have led with Ma Rainey instead.

On a cold day in Asheville, NC I was in a cabin with no heat and one TV channel, PBS. That day I learned about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who may be more influential than any male rock musician of the 40s and 50s. Yet it was almost 25 years after I started listening to Nirvana that I learned her name.

So this episode is my little retribution for all the early female women of rock who were pushed back from the spotlight in their own time, and nearly forgotten about in ours. I’m so happy that I found South Carolina musician Kara Anderson who joined me to discuss these women on this episode.

Anderson wrote an article about the women in rock for her college newspaper, and we discuss a number of artists mentioned in the article. We also talk about how these trailblazers helped impact future generations. We also discuss how artists like Big Mama Thorton had their original songs covered by male artists like Elvis, and how the female versions received almost no credit.

Anderson is a talented musician in her own right, playing as a member of Skeeterbite. If you’re in the Carolinas, anywhere near Columbia, SC, I hope you can check them out. If not you can visit their website for some tunes and social media stuff: http://skeeterbite.space

Listen to Episode 2 Here: