Rock’n’roll is a man’s, man’s world, baby. It needn’t be. It shouldn’t be. For every talented female artist playing rock’n’roll, you got at least twenty rubbish male artists who are more successful.
To say women are worse at playing rock’n’roll, or are less interested in this genre, is ridiculous. What happens is that girls have less role models to inspire them, besides receiving less encouragement to do it.
And that’s even before we talk about Sexism, which creeps up in many forms: from the male expectations of what a female artist should be like – think “cute”, “acoustic”, “quirky”etc. – to the fact a female artist might be signed just because they are “fanciable”, therefore reinforcing the notion that being “sexy” is more important than being talented. Of course image is important in rock’n’roll, but bands such as The Like are ridiculous, and they exist – and get attention – only because they fulfil some sort of male fantasies. Their music is awful, and certainly doesn’t help the case for women in rock.
That’s why Patti Smith is so important, today as much as in 1975 when she released her debut album Horses. Because she truly rocked in her own terms. She was putting herself up there, onstage, as an artist, just like her male counterparts. It was never about “being a woman”, or trying to be sexy, or even worrying about people’s perceptions of her – it was about being free, independent, strong, just like guys have always been. She wanted to be a rockstar like Keith Richards, or Bob Dylan. And she managed it. She was instantly iconic, thanks to that first album’s cover. She kicked ass, as you can testify on any YouTube footage from the ‘70s. The Patti Smith Group cover of The Who’s My Generation puts Oasis to shame, ending in a chaotic feedback noise that predated – and no doubt inspired – Sonic Youth.
A published poet before venturing into music, Patti Smith ranks as one of the best lyricists in rock, besides being one of the best and most passionate singers you’ll ever hear.
Now in her 60s, Smith stills performs with unparalleled energy. She is the consumate rock star, and should serve as an inspiration for anyone who loves rock’n’roll – whether you were born a girl, or a boy!
Gloria (from Horses) YouTube
Pissing In A River (from Radio Ethiopia) YouTube
Ask The Angels (from Radio Ethiopia) YouTube
Rock’n’Roll Nigger (from Easter) YouTube
Dancing Barefoot (from Wave) YouTube
The Jackson Song (from Dream of Life) YouTube
My Generation (Horses bonus track) YouTube
Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, is out now on paperback. Read it!