Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I’m not going to write about The Awakening; I think that will be written about and deconstructed plenty over the next few class discussions. Beating a going-to-be dead horse isn’t particularly my style, but music is. I listen to an inordinate amount of music from all different genres and eras. From indie bands to mainstream pop, I’ve very nearly covered the lot, or so I like to think. However, as three in the morning rolled around last Saturday night, a fellow Wally and I began to discuss the merits of the guitar players of history. Being naïve as he often can be, he instantly, unchangingly, and whole-heartedly supported the great-but-not-greatest Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. (This will get to gender bias, I promise.) At first, I couldn’t help but agree, then the bands and guitarists flooded my head. What about Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and Santana for god’s sake! There were too many, Duane Allman, Slash… so many. My head was spinning, and he reverently supported the wonderful Mr. Page. However, at about this point, I peered down at my phone to see I received a text from my dear friend “Katy.” It was that one name that sparked the question, “Danny, do you know any female guitarists?” He said, “Jimmy Page…” I knew he wouldn’t be any help at this point. But I began to think. Female artists, singers, littered my head, Janis, Ella, Patti, Aretha, and Joan were the names that scrolled across my head as if in a marquee, but not one was a guitarist. Moving into modern times, how many well-known female guitarists are there? Hell, how many female musicians are well known for much more than a spectacular voice? I know great female musicians are out there: Daru Oda, who plays with Norah Jones, is one of them, but why, I ask, is the female contingency of the music industry relegated to the voice while the men can explore a diverse set of instruments from banjo to bass, organ to piano? Not detracting from amazing vocal talents of late and lively female singers, but where are my guitar girls: where are my girls splitting strings on a bass or breaking sticks on a drum set?


  1. I started reading this and kind of blew it off to be honest; but then I started thinking and realized that Terry kind of has a point here. It's true for me as well, aside from vocalists, I really cannot think of any female musicians. Every time I think of one of the great guitar players or drummers it is a man. So now I find myself wondering why that is exactly...could the roots of this be at some culturally-defined gender thing? Do more guys pick up the guitar? It would make sense, it's only one of the few proven women-magnets. The drums? Is it more of a guy thing to grab some sticks and bang out beats? And singing? Maybe that is something women are more drawn to for a reason I can't really think of. I don't know, thoughts?

  2. I've often pondered this exact same question, Terry. Of course I'm sure there are some very talented female guitarists out there, but to be completely honest I've NEVER met one. I've heard dozens of girls try to play guitar and none of them seem to get much farther than G, C, D, repeat x4, if you know what I mean. I think a lot of this is due to the cultural convention of the male serenading the female, a la "Hey There Delilah." But this artistic discipline shows one of the strongest biases toward men that I've ever encountered, more so than literature, graphic arts, etc. The fact that musicianship is one of the least gender-betraying skills (since the product, the sound of a guitar, is more abstract than many paintings, and most literature) makes this discrepancy even more surprising. This has probably been an extremely unhelpful comment, now that I think of it. But it has reminded me of another gender discrepancy in the arts... the dearth of males, especially straight males, in theatre... I feel a blog coming on.

    Just for the good of the cause, by the way, I feel compelled to point out one of the few female instrumentalists of which I know that can really rock out-- Meg White. On DRUMS, no less.

    That is all.