Music Book Reviews: Hit Girls, Dylan, This Woman's Work & More

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Music Book Reviews: Hit Girls, Dylan, This Woman's Work & More

Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983: jen b. larson

I’ll never forget how disappointed I was when I bought a book that purported to be an oral history of a scene in a large Midwestern city (not Detroit) that had the participation and the voice of exactly one woman. There is literally no way this can be true, and yet it happens time and time again because you can’t look for what you never consider to be there. I am biased because I eagerly accepted the invitation to be in conversation with jen larson when she had her book event here in Detroit. But I am biased because I want there to be so many of these books. Hit Girls is a history of the bands you’ve never heard of from all over the States; these are the women who started and maintained and participated and created and uplifted local scenes outside of NYC or LA and who faded into the shadows when the scenes evolved because women are generally too busy doing the goddamned work to stop and ask for credit, or because they get married and/or have kids. It’s exciting to know that there are still so many bands that had to get cut out for lack of space, so there will hopefully be future volumes.

This Woman's Work: Essays on Music: Sinead Gleeson & Kim Gordon

It’s taken me a very long time to get through this amazing book because each essay is so rich and impactful I need time to digest it before going back for the next one. The hidden weapon of this book isn’t just who the essays are about, but who was asked to write the essay and I am once again furious that women are not asked to write about music more often and the women who do write about music have to fight for every inch of space they are allowed because these perspectives are — at least to me — transformative. They are personal and emotional and the product of years of thought and consideration. Rachel Kushner writes about Wanda Jackson; Kim Gordon talks to Yoshimi Yokota from the Boredoms, Liz Pelly writes about folk historian and archivist Sis Cunningham. Every essay draws you in, even if you think you won’t be interested or don’t know enough background you’ll suddenly realize you’re still reading and can’t put the book down. And I am just so thoroughly grateful that this book is here and I am learning about these women and their lives, and by that I mean both the writer and the subjects of the essays. Maggie Nelson’s essay is about her friend Lhasa de Sela, and even though I read the Music Matters book on Lhasa (and recommend it), there’s a whole emotional tonality missing in that book that is I think essential to understanding de Sela’s life and work.

(I want to be fair to the constraints of the series, having written one myself — but I also know that, having written one myself, that if the book had been written by Nelson or any other woman, that they would have to endure the same nonsense I have, which is male writers smugly passing judgement on how I had inserted myself into the book and passing judgement on how I had lived my life and passing judgement on the thoughts I shared, even though I know that the reason the book remains on endcaps and feature displays at bookstores around the world is because of the women at these bookstores who read my book and connected to it and saw themselves or recognized the person they saw, and understood why it was important.)


Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members by Ray Padgett

I appreciate Ray Padgett’s work so much because I recognize the deep historical care and attention to detail that I am always striving for. I blurbed this book and was honored to be asked to do so. It’s a quick and endlessly fascinating read, and he’s talked to so many people and gotten them to share great stories and insights simply by asking them the right questions and then listening to their answers. You will learn shit about Bob Dylan that you didn’t even know that you wanted to know.

[Sorry for the Amazon link but it’s $60 on Bookshop dot org]

nina simone's gum

Caryn Rose • Jan 18, 2022

In 1999, Nina Simone was invited to perform as part of Nick Cave’s curation of the Meltdown Festival. Meltdown is one of those things I looked at from over here and couldn’t figure out the money or the time or it was a syndrome of having, you know, two weeks’ vacation into which you have to cram everything you have ever wanted to do; I didn’t go to Patt…

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