Pat Blythe: The Women of Rock – Part Five – The Final Bow

pblythe

There are so many women who have ventured into the business because of their love of music…. it is their passion, to release a part of their inner selves, to create, to tell their stories through singing, writing, playing and performing. They add colour and life, offering up themselves and baring their souls and their hearts. Without these amazing women, these risk-takers and gamblers, well….we the audience would be the poorer.

Final bow

I cannot think of one women in pop/rock music today that can hold a candle to the women in this series. Not Madonna, not Lady Gaga, not Taylor Swift, not Katy Perry, not Janet Jackson or Britney Spears….even Florence and the Machine (although they are very good)….none of them come close to the sheer talent, presence, depth and yes, elegance these Women of Rock have (or had).  We know them all on a first -name basis. They are unforgettable.

When this particular column is done, hopefully I will have engaged and entertained you….maybe even refreshed your memories or possibly took you back to some special moment(s) in time. I remember sitting around “the record machine” listening to those pieces of black plastic spin ’round, producing some of the finest sounds my ears had ever heard. I  have moved across many dance floors to their music. Pure joy!

Pinup Records

Now that I have your attention….

Although each of us will have our own “list” of favourites, these twelve Women of Rock were my standouts. These are the ones who took me through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, whose singles and albums I purchased with my allowance (and then my first paycheques). Many of them still carry me away in the 21st century.

The final two are as different from one another as night and day (or as my friend Rox would say “chalk and cheese”) — they come from diverse rock “genres” across various time periods, each adding their own individual flavour to the mix, offering their own colourful narratives and distinctive voices to the chorus. But they all have one thing in common….their love of music.

minions applause

Ladies and gentlemen, with a big round of applause, please welcome to the stage, Annie and Linda.

Annie

Annie young

A Christmas Day baby, Annie Lennox is a Scottish lass born in Aberdeen, Scotland.  If you know anything about British history, the name Lennox played a huge role between the two cousins, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, in the 16th century, that changed the future of England and Scotland forever (but that’s another story)

english-school-19-united-kingd-portrait-of-a-lady-and-a-gentl-1384574

Lord Darnley, Earl of Lennox and Mary Queen of Scots

Back to Annie….Her vocal talents range from what’s been referred to as “blue-eyed soul” to jazz, pop, pop/rock, synth/pop, rock and just about anything inbetween. Lennox has what I call a “chameleon voice’, it suits any genre beautifully and makes it her own.  She doesn’t shy away from playing an instrument either — piano, keyboard, guitar, accordion, harmonium, bass guitar and flute — are all part of her repertoire.

Annie The CatchIn 1976 Lennox started out playing flute in a band called Dragon’s Playground. By 1977 she had joined a British rock/pop band called The Catch with Peet Coombes and Dave Stewart.  The Catch produced one single, Borderline/Blackblood before changing their name to The Tourists. The Tourists were reasonably successful, recording and releasing three albums in 1978/79 before Stewart’s and Coombe’s musical differences began to emerge. Coombes preferred the heavier rock while Stewart went the route of synth/pop/rock. Stewart, along with Lennox parted company with Coombes and Eurythmics were born.

The Catch – Borderline

The Tourists – I Only Want to be With You (1979)

The Tourists – So Good To Be Back Home Again

“Eurythmic” Days

Annie and Dave Eurythmics

Dave and Annie 

From 1980 to 1990, Annie was one half of Eurythmics along with her partner David Stewart. Her recognisable alto and signature androgynous look became Annie and Oscarsynonymous with the band and a beacon for the LBGT community. During her years with Eurythmics, the band delivered hit after hit during the 80’s including Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Here Comes The Rain Again, Who’s That Girl, Missionary Man and so many more. Lennox has won many award over the years, both as a solo artist and as part of Eurthymics including Grammys, Ivor Novello awards, four Brit Awards as Best Female Artist, a Golden Globe, an Oscar and on and on….

One of Eurythmics lesser known songs, Love is a Stranger, was released as a single in 1982 but essentially bombed. When the 1983 album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was published, Love is a Stranger was included as a track on the album and also re-released as a single, riding the coattails of their commercial breaking second LP and the hugely successful title track.

Eurythimics – Love is a Stranger

In 1990 , Eurythmics went on hiatus but were never officially disbanded. Both Lennox and Stewart went on to pursue solo careers. They joined forces almost 10 years later to record Eurythmics final studio album, Peace, which was released in 1999.  The Ultimate Collection and the Boxed Set were both released in 2005.

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

Over the years, Eurythmics have released nine studio albums, four compilation albums and one live album. In addition to all this, Lennox herself has released a further six studio albums and one compilation album. Individually or with Eurythmics, Lennox has provided her voice for over 177 soundtracks and sold over 80 million albums worldwide.

Solo Act

Annie Diva

Diva, Lennox’s first solo endeavour, was released in 1992. Diva charted #1 in the U.K. and went double platinum in the U.S. With the help of two singles, Walking on Broken Glass and Why, Lennox’s profile was given a huge boost and the video for the song Why won the MTV award for Best Female Video. The video for Walking on Broken Glass featured actors Hugh Laurie and John Malkovich in costumes of the British Regency period.

Annie Lennox – Walking On Broken Glass

Annie Lennox – Why

Medusa followed in 1995 and was comprised entirely of cover songs by such artists as Bob Marley, Neil Young and The Clash. Medusa spent 60 weeks on the Billboard Hot 200 chart and sold over two million copies in the U.S. alone. Going back to her childhood, the very first record Lennox ever purchased was Procol Harum’s  A Whiter Shade of Pale. Lennox’s version became one of the signature pieces on Medusa.

Annie Lennox – A Whiter Shade of Pale

“No More “I Love You’s””, originally written by David Freeman and Joseph Hughes and recorded by their band The Lover Speaks, was also one of the cover tunes on Medusa. The single entered the U.K charts at #2 and was Lennox’s highest ever solo peak. Two more albums, Bare and Songs of Mass Destruction followed and between the albums Lennox’s involvement in AIDs activism had begun to take hold.

Annie Lennox – No More “I Love You’s”

The Ah Ha Moment and AIDs

After performing as part of the 46664 AIDS Charity Concert at the request of Nelson Mandela, Lennox and all her fellow artists attended a press conference on Robben Island, where Mandela has spent 27 years of his life as a prisoner.

Annie 4664In Lennox’s words, ” that moment, as I listened to Nelson Mandela, propelled me forward. I evolved from being a singer-songwriter-performer-mother-woman to being an activist. I began to speak, blog, and engage… if you went into a house in a South African township or to an orphanage hospital, you would see what the word pandemic means, and you wouldn’t be able to stop talking about it.”

Charity begins at home…. Lennox’s charity work has included Oxfam, Amnesty International and the British Red Cross as well as a three-year stint as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador — all for AIDS awareness.  She received her OBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2011 in recognition of her humanitarian work. To all of these and several other charities and causes she devotes her time and her voice.

In November 2013, Lennox received the Music Industry Trusts Award for her career achievements in music and her charity commitments. Elton John said of her award; “It is so well deserved and not only for your extraordinary contribution to music and songwriting but also for your outstanding and tireless work as an HIV and AIDS activist and supporter of woman’s rights,” while Adele stated; “Annie Lennox has been a constant part of my life. An example of a brilliant talent that exudes excellence and influence on everyone.”

Just Annie

Annie sings

Rolling Stone magazine has included Lennox in their list as one of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She is also considered the most successful female British artist in the UK’s music history. Lennox received a Billboard Century Award in 2002. the highest possible accolade from Billboard Magazine. Editor-in-Chief Timothy White described her as one of “the most original and unforgettably affecting artists in the modern annals of popular music.

Her most recent recording, Nostalgia, is a collection of Lennox’s childhood favourite soul, blues and jazz standards such as I Put A Spell On You, Summertime and Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit.

Annie Lennox – I Put A Spell On You

Lennox’s performance at the 2015 Grammy’s stole the show. She is a classy, let loose, relaxed performer who so completely revels what she does. This is how it’s done…. no flange, no echo, no double-tracking, no gimmicks….feel the music and the power of the voice. It’s just Annie.

Annie and Hozier – 2015 Grammy’s

Linda

Linda

Linda Ronstadt‘s recording career has spanned four decades. During that time she has won 11 Grammy’s (out of 27 nominations), won three American Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music Awards, an Emmy Award and an ALMA Award. She has also been nominated for both a Tony and Golden Globe.

Ronstadt has recorded and released 30 albums and charted 20 Billboard Hot 100 hit singles. Her autobiography, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir,  was published in 2013 and debuted in the Top 10 on The New York Times Best Sellers List.

Linda Maria Ronstadt was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1946.  Her Dutch, German, English and Mexican heritage meant she grew up listening to wide variety of music.

“At age 14, Ronstadt formed a folk trio with her brother Peter and sister Suzy. The group played coffeehouses, fraternity houses, and other small venues, billing themselves as “the Union City Ramblers” and “The Three Ronstadts”….they even recorded themselves at a Tucson studio under the name “the New Union Ramblers”. Their repertoire included the music they grew up on – folk, country, bluegrass, and Mexican.”

Linda Stone Poneys

The Stone Poneys

Ronstadt wanted to combined folk music with rock ‘n roll so in 1964, at the age of 18, she moved to Los Angeles teaming up with Bobby Kimmel, a friend from Tucson, to form a band. They were joined by Kenny Edwards, a writing partner of Kimmel’s, and named themselves  The Stone Poneys after a song by Delta Blues singer Charley Patton’s song The Stone Pony Blues. It was while playing at Linda Dif Drum 45the Troubadour in 1966 they met Nick Venet, who subsequently signed them to Capitol Records.

The Stone Poneys recorded and released three albums in a 15-month period. Their biggest hit was “Different Drum”, written by Michael Nesmith before he joined the Monkees. The song was originally recorded by The Greenbriar Boys in 1966. According to Kenny Edwards,”That’s when (Capital Record’s producer) Nik Venet sort of took an executive position and went, ‘This could be a hit song, and we need to sort of have an arranger arrange it.’ So none of us actually played on the record version of that.” Almost 50 years later, Different Drum  remains one of Ronstadt’s most popular recordings. It was the second single I bought at Kmart for 44 cents (the first being Delilah, by Tom Jones). I still have both 45’s.

Stone Poney’s (feat Linda Ronstadt) – Different Drum (1967)

The Stone Poney’s broke up just prior to the release of their third album in 1968. Ronstadt released her debut solo album Hand Sown….Home Grown in Hand Sown....Home Grown1969. During this time she was also participating in a series of “super session” recordings which culminated in a record called Music From Free Creek.  The session players included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Emerson, Buzz Feiten, Mitch Mitchell and Ronstadt….among others. Joe Viglione from http://www.allmusic.com describes it, “Music from Free Creek is a super session album, where the musicians are playing for the fun of it, and that comes across. The material doesn’t get bogged down in ‘names’; it just flows.”

Music from Free Creek – He Darked the Sun  (note: the vocals start at 39 seconds)

Her second solo album, Silk Purse, garnered her first Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance/Female….which she won.

Silk_Purse

Twenty-eight more albums would follow but Heart Like a Wheel, (her last album for Capitol) released in 1974, became her breakout album. She was off and running….and never looked back.

Linda Ronstadt — You’re No Good (Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special)

Ronstadt’s natural vocal range spans several octaves from contralto to soprano. She has been called an “interpretive” singer, putting her own unique stamp on the songs she sings. Referring to Ronstadt’s voice, Country Western Stars magazine wrote in 1970 ,“Rock people thought she was too gentle, folk people thought she was too pop, and pop people didn’t quite understand where she was at, but Country people really loved Linda.” She never categorized herself and stuck to her genre-crossing brand of music.”

Linda Ronstadt – Blue Bayou (1977)

“I grew up singing Mexican music, and that’s based on indigenous Mexican rhythms. Mexican music also has an overlay of West African music, based on huapango drums, and it’s kind of like a 6/8 time signature, but it really is a very syncopated 6/8. And that’s how I attack vocals.” —Linda Ronstadt, on reconciling her musical instincts with rock ‘n’ roll.

Linda Album Montage

A Linda Montage

According to Redbook, Ronstadt is considered the most successful female singers of the 1970’s. She has appeared on the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine six times and on the cover of Time magazine 1977. She has lent her voice to over 120 albums and has sold more than 100 million records, making her one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times noted in 2004, Ronstadt is “Blessed with arguably the most sterling set of pipes of her generation … rarest of rarities – a chameleon who can blend into any background yet remain boldly distinctive … It’s an exceptional gift; one shared by few others.

RonstadtTime

Linda – The Cover of Time Magazine

An interesting quote from the Time magazine article, “Rock is the thumping heart of Linda’s music, and the rock world is dominated by males. The biggest stars are male, and so are the back-up musicians … rock beats are … phallic, and lyrics … masculine. … Janis Joplin, the first great white woman rocker, rattled the bars … but she died. … Joni Mitchell … stylish (but can’t) compete in drawing power with men … (however) Linda Ronstadt … has made herself one of the biggest individual rock draws in the world.”

Linda Rolling Stone 1978

Linda – The Cover of Rolling Stone

She was the first female in music history to score three consecutive platinum albums and ultimately racked up a total of eight consecutive platinum albums. At one point she was considered the highest-paid woman in rock.

A Voice Silenced….

It was announced for the first time publicly in August 2013 that Ronstadt had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The disease has affected her vocal chords leaving her unable to sing. In an interview with the New York Times, Ronstadt stated, “I have no choice….if there was something I could work on….it there was a drug that I could take, I’d take napalm. But I’m never going to sing again.”

linda_2014 announces she has Parkinsons

Linda Ronstadt announces she has Parkinsons

Her last recording as lead vocalist was made in 2010 on the Chieftains studio album San Patricio (with Ry Cooder).

Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris – For A Dancer

….and in closing….

Throughout the years I have listened with great delight to each and every one these wonderful Women of Rock. I hope you have enjoyed their stories and their music as much as I did sharing them with you.

Cheers!

Sources

Interview with Justine van der Leun, YouTube, Wikipedia, IMDb, Billboard, Rolling Stone magazine, my mind, The New York Times, Billboard Magazine, bio., CBS San Francisco 

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-buttonIn “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much  of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda Little Red-headed dancing girland the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts,  Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance….

2 Responses to “Pat Blythe: The Women of Rock – Part Five – The Final Bow”

  1. you left the best for last! well done, a fine series indeed. Cheers!

  2. Peter Montreuil Says:

    I run out of superlatives to describe this blog.

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