Article 36

Rock On

Woman Power

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 9th March, 2002)

Y esterday was World's Women's day and "Rock On" once again celebrates and explores the works of some of the finest women Rock music artistes of our times. The 60s saw the flower power generation produce some of the finest music that man was fortunate to hear. The women artistes of those days brought a certain magic to the vibe that surrounded all of us and thankfully today we have the recorded music that can take us back to the thrill of that magic era.

One of the leading vocal groups of those 'hippie' days was the California based band "The Mamas and the Papas". This band sang the music of John Phillips who was one of the major spokesmen of that entire generation and featured the honey voiced Mama Cass Eliot along with the beautiful Michelle on vocals. Cass had the power in her voice to move millions of people like me who absolutely adored her strong delivery and feel. Her huge size made her an oddity in the music scene and she was loved for her 'care a damn' attitude. Unfortunately, her weight led to health problems and the world saw another artiste die an untimely death. Cass was no more at the age of 33. The complex vocal harmonies of the Mamas and Papas will always be remembered as one of the hallmarks of that golden era. As Ravi Shankar remarked when he heard them at the Monterey Festival "There was melody, there were lyrical moments, and beautiful -- they looked so good together,"

Another woman who truly epitomized the "out of the box" thinking that pervaded those glorious days was Bonnie Raitt, one of the most critically admired yet commercially ignored white R&B singers in the history of popular music. Bonnie Raitt achieved the success and respect she had so obviously deserved only with her tenth album, almost 20 years after her recording debut. Here was a lady so captivated by the blues that she began learning guitar at the age of 12. Her passion for blues guitar saw her achieve proficiency in bottleneck guitar, an ability almost unique in a white female. She began playing on the US folk and blues circuit and became friendly with many of the surviving blues legends, including Howlin' Wolf. She recorded scores of albums but it was only in 1989 with the release of "Nick of Time" that she finally found herself receiving commercial rewards and Grammy Awards. 1990 saw her winning another Grammy awards for her work on John Lee Hooker's "The Healer" album, which was to some extent a return to the roots for two truly great artists from different generations. Bonnie has paid her dues many times over and it was heartening to see the sincerity of this gifted artiste rewarded after so many years.

For a lowly back up singer to finally end up as a million-seller Grammy winner is indeed a 'Cinderella story come true' for any musician worth his/her salt. Sheryl Crow is the name of this fortunate person. Sheryl finally saw her dreams realized after years of slaving behind the scenes with some of the finest acts in Rock history like Eric Clapton, Don Henley, Michael Jackson and Rod Stewart. For the best part of the '80s and early '90s, Crow worked in the less than glamorous side of the business. Her patience was finally rewarded with the release of "Tuesday Night Music Club". This saw the emergence of "All I Wanna Do" as a major seller all over the world. Sheryl did not take her success lightly as she toured relentlessly as an opening act for Bob Dylan amongst others. She also did as many festivals as she could, along with television appearances. She recognized the power of the video in music promotion and her first album saw the release of as many as four videos. She became standard fare on MTV and VH1 as she graced the drawing rooms of millions of homes all over the world. Today Sheryl Crow is considered one of the strongest women superstars in the contemporary music scene. She releases albums at regular intervals and her carefully crafted video image has ensured continued success to this plucky and lucky musician.

There have been countless women who have rocked my world over the last so many years. In fact, the latest issue of 'Q' magazine carries a list of 100 top women rockers and even they have missed quite a few of my favorites! Considering the incredible talent that one sees emerging every year from all over the world, I am sure there are many more who are just waiting in the wings to find their place in the sun. Wouldn't it be just great if some of them were from India!

Rock on!

Nandu Bhende











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