NEW YORK-As a drummer protégé growing up in the Bay Area, Sheila Escovedo asks band guests if she can sit in. He was always told to punch it. “They looked at me like, ‘You’re a woman. Get out.’ They were pushing their hand like, ‘Get out of here,”’ Escovedo recalls. And there is no way. ” Fortunately, Escovedo found a way, becoming Grammy-nominated Sheila E., a drummer who made a gold record with Prince, performed at the Oscars, and provided music for soundtracks, mammoth sporting events and world tours. She and the other stone women face similar distrust and hatred. “I think the common theme for women in general, and in the music industry in particular, is to stay true to who you are and be good at it,” she said.
A deep dive from female rock pioneers like Sheila E. forms the backbone of Sunday’s thrilling four-part documentary “Women Who Rock” on Epix. Director Jessica Hopper says the series offers a look at more than just rock stars. “Just like you can’t separate the art from the artists, your music can’t separate the culture. If you’re telling these stories, you’re telling this larger American story,” Hopper said. The series stars Nancy Wilson of Heart, Chaka Khan, Pat Benatar, Mavis Staples, Shania Twain, Macy Gray, Rickie Lee Jones, Norah Jones, Aimee Mann, Tori Amos, Kate Pierson of the B-52s, Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, Miss Hendryx, Susanna Hoffs in the Bangles, Jody Watley, St. Vincent, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, among others. “I like to hear from other women about their experiences,” Hendryx told the AP in an interview. “There are so many standing breasts – I should say shoulders – so many women who have gone before them and fought wars that they didn’t even know they were fighting.” The documentaries work chronologically from the birth of rock’n’roll, where women weren’t taken seriously, to the present day, when they took production and technology credit to burn their own independent tracks. It’s a long climb for most.
“In the business of entertainment, I think women have classically been relegated to being second-class citizens who don’t have a whit of their own opinion about anything,” Wilson says in an interview. “So they have to be shaped, informed and told how to look and how to behave and how to sound.”
Heart — led by sisters Nancy and Ann — brushed off such behavior, leaning on their blood and their military background for strength, blazing a path in a male-dominate space with songs like “Barracuda” and “Alone.” Sheryl Crowe in the series says Wilson was a beacon of how to rock and maintain your femininity.
“We had this kind of almost a regimented concept that we could just do it. There would be no resistance,” says Nancy Wilson, touring this summer as Nancy Wilson’s Heart. “We were just able to do it. We were young enough and good enough already at a very young age not to be convinced that what we were was inappropriate.”
It may come as no surprise that Staples kicks off the series. At the fulcrum of gospel, blues and R&B, she is the connection between Mahalia Jackson and Bob Dylan, Prince and Norah Jones. The fact that Staples was onboard helped convince others.
“There are few folks whose voices were so integral to sound-tracking change in America as Mavis. And so getting to start with Mavis really kind of set a bar for how we moved through the rest of the series,” said Hopper.
The show promotes a temporary sisterhood of artists, with Mary Clayton directing Odetta, Hendryx directing Nina Simone, and Khan returning to Staples. “Each of these women really offers a battle for the women we meet next,” said Hopper, a music journalist, before going on to direct and produce the documentary. The series explores the rise of men and women on stage with bands like The Pretenders, The B-52s, Talking Heads and Blondie and the exploitation of the music industry by black artists, from gospel to disco. . Viewers saw the MTV revolution in the 1980s prized image and the late arrival of solo superstars Twain, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. The second episode, which covers the 1970s, stars Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Stevie Nicks in the context of the Equal Rights Amendment and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The episode explores the importance of the punk club CBGB and how Patti Smith announced a world without sex, while Blondie’s Debbie Harry added a punk attraction. “As far as I’m concerned, Debbie thought Harry was cold,” said St. John. Vincent in line. Joan Jett recalls her parents begging for a guitar and finally getting one at age 13, spending the first few days trying to bend the e-string over and over again. She asked her father to teach her rock ‘n’ roll, but she replied that girls don’t. Instead, he tried to teach her “Above Old Smokey.” “I wanted to keep the guitar and own it like the Rolling Stones,” Jett said of the series. On the way he kept thinking to himself, “I can’t be alone.” He is righteous.
At the age of 16, Jett was in the pioneering all-girl band The Runaways. But the industry never made it easy, always putting obstacles in the way and saying, “It’s not allowed.” Against Jett: “That killed me.” Wilson felt that the advances made by women stopped in the 1970s when MTV took over and from the 1990s it was only rebuilt with a focus on acts like Phoebe Bridgers, Wet Leg, Lucius, Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen – or, as he puts it, “the women out there who never take prisoners.” It helped the fraternity as a democracy of technology and gave all artists the skill to design, create and produce their music and bypass the traditional gatekeepers. Another artist to watch is Oakland singer-songwriter Star Amerasu, a trans musician who makes a living through Patreon, a crowdfunding platform. Shelia E. is also trying to inspire the next generation of female musicians. At least once a week, he surfs the Internet and entertains young people, especially girls. “I’ll message them on Instagram or Facebook and say, ‘Hey, keep doing what you’re doing. I’m a fan. You are amazing. “Please tell your parents they did a good job,” he said.