When Marc and I talked about doing our Mount Rushmore of musicians, I had no idea what that would mean. I thought, easy-peasy, choose four chicks and voilà. Joni and Dolly were quickly selected. But who would get the other two slots? And so began my research because I realised that I had no friggen clue. I also realised that most of my favourite singers are men. Well hell. I shoulda turned the tables on Marc and said you do women and I’ll do men! He he he… that sounds wrong but right, right?
Since I was not deadset on anyone, I had to do some serious research. Limiting ourselves to those within the last fifty years helped some. I Googled “Women songwriters of influence” or “Women singers who write their own songs”, etc. I was rather pleased that my two original ladies made every list. So did Carole King and Madonna and a few others.
Full disclosure: Not a fan of Carole King! Well no, that’s not the right thing to say. Not anymore. As I did my research, I came to realise just how much I already did know and enjoy her work and enjoy pretty much all her songs – the ones she sings or sung by others.
As for Madonna, I surprised myself by finally adding her. Research again said I had to. We know how much she has influenced the next generation of women singers. Her ability to entertain is without question. She has been innovative and pushed the limits. And I hadn’t realised that she had a part in the writing of most of her songs – no, she’s no Joni Mitchell or Carole King but I could not dismiss her.
There were wonderful side-effects to this project. There were great discussions in the comment sections. Since I share my posts on Facebook, more discussions took place there. Some even got their own Rushmores going. How cool is that?
A fellow blogger, Trent McDonald, from Trent’s World, decided to do his own Mount Rushmore of Female Musical Artists. And what an eclectic mix! Do check it out here.
Marc was further inspired. His posts on Freddie, Bowie and MJ were all fabulous. But then he did a series of side posts, each one more wonderful than the next. His What If? post looked at what could have happened if John Lennon had NOT been shot that fateful night.
Next, he was inspired to create a delicious sandwich and name it the Rushmore. All I know is I want one!
Following his fabulous post on Prince, Marc wrote a fictional story Raspberry Beret – inspired by the song but giving us the woman’s side of the story. Delicious.
I hope he gets further inspired… hint, hint, Marco!
I’m also thinking that I shall be further inspired in the near future …
I was a late bloomer. Musically speaking, that is. When it comes to appreciating Joni Mitchell, to be more precise. There was a time when I thought her singing was closer to caterwauling. I know, I know. What the hell am I talking about? What can I say? I knew no better. Or maybe, just maybe, I can say that my taste in music has evolved over time and that which I could not fully appreciate then, my life’s experience has enabled me to, now. Whatever it was, Joni’s place in my musical roster is firmly established.
My second-favourite movie is “Love, Actually”. One of the characters, Karen, played by Emma Thompson, loves Joni. To her husband’s (Alan Rickman) disdainful comment: “I can’t believe you still listen to Joni Mitchel”, Karen responds: “I love her, and true love lasts a life time. Joni Mitchell is the one who taught your cold English wife how to love.” I would say my love for Joni started just before this movie came out in 2003.
The radio station I listen to (yes, I still listen to the radio), CBC Music, has a little thing every weekday morning called “Under the Covers”, which, as the title implies, means they play a cover of a song. Just this past week (I love serendipity, don’t you?) The Joni Mitchell song “Circle Game” was being covered by Buffy St. Marie. That was fine and dandy but what the DJ, Saroja Coelho shared is what grabbed my attention. Until Joni saw Buffy in concert in 1964, she was singing other people’s songs. Buffy taught her that women can write songs, too. Intelligent songs. Songs that mean something. That very day, she wrote her first song, “Day After Day” and was off and running. Joni gave a tape of her songs to Buffy who carried it around with her on tour, playing it for everyone. As Buffy says:
“Most of the people I played Joni’s tape for – friends and musicians – loved her music, but not the business boys. They were into Peter, Paul & Mary vanilla folk songs, and Joni and I were both originals… and Canadian (not so cool at the time). I played her tape for Joel Dean, my agent at Chartoff-Winkler Agency, and got a “no thanks”. But a younger guy in the same agency agreed to go see Joni play at a Greenwich Village coffee house. That was Elliot Roberts. He and Joni built a great career together and I’ve always loved him for that.”
Joni Mitchell has had her share of accolades: nine Grammy awards, inducted in the Juno Hall of Fame (Canadian Music) and in 1997 she became the first Canadian woman named to the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 – the first Canadian to earn this recognition. Not too shabby, I say.
And she’s been an influence to the likes of Bob Dylan, Suzanne Vega, Alanis Morissette, and Prince. I mean come on, Prince? Doing a cover? “Drink a Case of You” is a lovely version by him.
My second favourite song of hers is her later version of “Both Sides Now”. Her voice is deeper and richer (smoke-altered) and she brings it down a notch – gives me goosebumps. For those of you who prefer the original, you can click here. For the others, here you go.
All of Joni’s songs tell a story. Her album “Blue” was so personal that Kris Kristofferson, when she played it for him, said: “God, Joan, save something of yourself.” He might have had a point because, as she said, while recording this album, they had to lock the doors to the studio because she was in a state of mind that today would be called a mental breakdown.
“It begins with a sense of isolation and of not knowing anything, which is accompanied by a tremendous panic. Then clairvoyant qualities begin to come in, and you and the world become transparent, so if you’re approached by a person, all their secrets are not closeted.”
When one creates such an album, it cannot help but become a classic and, in this case is called a “bastion of artistic expression”.
None of Joni’s music is meaningless. She mixes her voice (which has shifted from mezzo-soprano to contralto over time) with her superb guitar or piano playing to create music that ranges from folk to jazz to pop to rock to classical. Her songs reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment, and joy.
And, since Christmas is next week (what?), I had to bring in Joni last, because my favourite song of hers is sort of a Christmas one, which just so happens to belong on that wonderful album that is Blue…
Joni Mitchell definitely deserves her place on MY Rushmore.
Do please go visit Marc over at Sorryless to see who he put as his fourth member of HIS Rushmore. I know one thing for sure. You won’t come away untouched by his beautiful writing.
I was raised on country music. Not that I’d admit it. Then. Neither would my sisters. We’d occasionally get caught by friends when we sang along to songs that we weren’t supposed to know. It may have garnered us more than one disbelieving or bewildered look, followed by a “how come you know this stuff?” We might have blushed and stuttered some inane reason as to the why we knew ALL the words… Truth is, I always loved it and am now not shy to admit it, either! Now.
I always knew when my mother was ironing (NOT a regular occurrence, I assure you) because, when I got off the bus on the other side of the field next to our house – back before four houses were added to the lot – I could hear the music blaring through the open windows. Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, never Johnny Cash coz she just didn’t dig him for reasons unfathomable, Loretta Lynn and, of course, Dolly Parton. No way in hell you can list the best of the best of country without including Dolly!
Then again, it is unfair to box her into only one genre, singing for one generation. Who else, except maybe Cher, can claim to be an intergenerational celebrity, loved by both the religious right and the gay community; by octogenarians and twenty-somethings?
When you look beyond all the fake, all the make-up, the wigs, the sparkles, you find a proficient businesswoman, accomplished songwriter, brilliant performer and generous philanthropist. You can’t get more authentic inside all of the outlandish packaging. Packaging about which she maintains to have never pretended to be anything but honest about. Her professional career was built on it and she will continue to maintain it until her last breath. Asked by Barbara Walters why she dressed as she did and wore the wigs when she is naturally beautiful, got this response:
“No, It’s certainly a choice. I don’t like to be like everyone else. I’ve often made the statement that I would never stoop so low as to be fashionable. That’s the easiest thing in the world to do. I just decided that I would just do somethin’ that would at least get the attention. Once they got past the shock of the ridiculous way I looked and all that, then they would see there was parts of me to be appreciated. I’m very real inside. And that’s where it counts… Showbusiness is a money-making joke and I’ve just always liked telling jokes.”
You tell ’em, Dolly! And really, such an interesting interview, it’s worth the listen, if’n you’re so inclined.
Her first real hit, ironically not written by her, though it could have been, says it, she may look it, but she ain’t no dumb blonde…
Dolly has been writing songs since before she could even write (age 5 and her mother wrote them for her). She was performing at ten on TV and bought her family a set with her earnings so they could actually see her. And, she made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry, introduced by Johnny Cash, by age 13, earning three encores. As if writing over 3,000 songs – each of them a little story – and being nominated and earning all sorts of awards (Country, Pop, British, Canadian, Grammy, Emmy, Oscar Tony…), she holds two Guinness World Records! She has had a top twenty country hit in six consecutive decades and has had 107 hits to make the chart. Seriously.
Porter Wagoner really put her on the map, though. She replaced the “girl singer” Norma Jean in the late sixties and was practically booed off the stage. I wonder how she managed not to gag every time she was introduced as the “pretty little gal”? She won them all over, of course, and by 1974 was ready to chart her own course. She wrote “I Will Always Love You” as a parting gift.
“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”
Speaking of that song, she would dearly have loved to have Elvis Presley sing it. However, Presley’s peeps wanted to own her song and she plumb turned them down, stating it’s her song and no matter how much I would have loved to hear it from his beautiful voice, she would not give it up. Talk about knowing her business! That song would make her mucho moolah thanks to Whitney Houston’s goose bump-inducing version, which she adored.
Dolly managed to cross over from country to pop and back to country, finally dipping her toe into bluegrass, which, let’s face it, is where it all began. But singin’ ain’t all this pretty little lady can do as her roles in movies can attest. Did you know Jane Fonda insisted Dolly be brought in for Nine to Five? Can anyone picture someone else playing Doralee? Or Truvy in Steel Magnolias for that matter? I sure can’t. Little tidbit: while in between scenes, Dolly came up with the theme for Nine to Five by “playing” her acrylic fingernails! I kid you not. Move over washboard, there’s a new instrument in town. I wonder if they include them as one of the ten instruments she plays? Usually, she uses her banjo when writing songs but hey, if nothing else is available…
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
She never hid her desire to become a superstar and is the epitome of generosity when it comes to her fans. She will never gripe about any demands made on her time because she knows this is part and parcel of the deal. She is ferocious in keeping herself and her views private and will never speak ill of anyone. No matter how many times she has been asked her opinion on politics, we have been left in the dark. I admire a star who keeps herself far away from any potential scandal.
She is gracious and while never officially stating being a feminist is always there to support her fellow women performers. Her theme park is fine and dandy but I’d rather focus on her causes: Imagination Library, which gives books to children from birth till they start school, Buddy Program to help students resist dropping out of high school; fundraising to help with fighting fires, fighting for animal rights, donating $1,000,000 towards the Coronavirus vaccine research and more.
Ohmygosh! I have overstayed my welcome! I’ll spare you more (even though I keep thinking of more things to say!) Dolly Parton’s place on Mount Rushmore, as far as I’m concerned, is not to be denied.
Please make sure you go over to see Marc’s choice for the Male side on Sorryless.
You may love her, you may hate her but one thing is for sure; whether you are 15 or 85, there is a really good chance you have heard of her! The Material Girl, known as Madonna, born Madonna Louise Ciccone, needs no other name. She has (and still does) shocked and stunned; she has broken boundaries, persevered, challenged, entertained, and opened wide the doors for future generations.
The eighties could not be the eighties without mentioning Madonna and her contributions. My gosh, who has not danced to “Everybody” or “Like a Virgin” or “Holiday”?
While I was never one to follow trends for dress, many others were. Bleached hair, thrift-shop style clothes consisting of lace tops, skirts over Capri pants, fishnet stockings, plastic bracelets, multiple necklaces (don’t forget the crucifix)… ring a bell to any of you? One of my favourite movies “Desperately Seeking Susan” with Rosanna Arquette brought this style to the big screen and really put her on the map making even more girls wanting to be just like her.
Of course, that particular style had an expiry date because she is definitely not one to stay in one groove forever. Her success is due to her versatility and ability to reinvent herself into the next version, not only musically but with her signature looks created through the outfits, from wild to questionable to glamourous. From blonde to brunette back to blonde, bustiers to cone-shaped bra outfits, to the ooh-la-la of Marilyn Monroe to Marie-Antoinette during her Vogue period. (Hey! Didja know that that dress was the one worn by Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons? Fitting, don’t you think? Dangerous and various liaisons were had by Madonna over the years).
In July 1985, Penthouse and Playboy published nudes of her, taken in 1978 when she was broke and needed the money. Needless to say, this caused an uproar for which she refused to apologize. To think she was paid $25 per session when the photos ended up being sold for up to $100,000. Good for her, I say. No need to apologize for who you are and what you choose to do, if no one is getting hurt.
Lady Gaga would not be Lady Gaga today if it hadn’t been for Madonna paving the way to the outrageous. Gwen Stefani said it best: “Some people say that I copy her. But show me one girl my age who was not influenced by her.” There would be no Britney Spears, no Christina Aguilera, no Avril Lavigne, no Rihanna, no… well you get the picture. The list is long. Many artists (including actors like Cameron Diaz) as well singers have said they are inspired by her, want her longevity, her bravery, her business sense. If that alone is not enough to merit a spot on the Mount, I don’t know what is.
The nineties turned her splash into a tidal wave. She created her own entertainment company called Maverick, giving her total control over her artistic endeavours. Nothing could stop her now. Businesswoman AND entertainer. A potent mix. Sexually explicit books, photos, music, videos were the ordre du jour. I’ll never forget her documentary “True or Dare”. The balls on this woman! Talk about not being afraid to put yourself out there, win or lose. She ruffled more than one feather, particularly during this decade. From the country of Puerto Rico to the Vatican to the general religious Catholic population. Provocation does sell.
And yet, during this time, she also played in another of my favourite movies “A League of Their Own” and “Evita” – this last one a project that she felt compelled to do and for which the powers that be had to acknowledge she did a more than decent job. Not bad for a kid from Michigan, who lost her mother (a French Canadian – how do you like them apples?) quite young and at the age of twenty moved to New York
The 2000’s brought a more subdued (okay, compared to herself!) Madonna – for a while anyway. Much as I love her music over the years, her album Ray of Light is the only one of hers that I ever bought! So many good songs on this album. I had a mix of songs on my old iPod that included the song “Music” which had the perfect beat to walk/run on my treadmill. Of course, she wasn’t done provoking and I don’t think she ever will.
I could have gone on and on, pointing out all her successes but let’s face it, most of us know that she has had a gargantuan career and she’s not done.
Robert M. Grant said: “that what has brought Madonna success is certainly not outstanding natural talent. As a vocalist, musician, dancer, songwriter, or actress, Madonna’s talents seem modest.” Possibly. You can be the judge. However, when it comes to meeting our criteria, there is no way in hell she does not deserve a place on MY Mount Rushmore. I say she didn’t need a prayer to get there.
Don’t forget to go check out Marc’s choice for the male side of things over on Sorryless.
So, you’re going with Carole King, eh? Wonder what Marc’s going with on the men’s side over at Sorryless?
I dunno for him (not true, I do) and yes. I think she definitely deserves a spot.
I don’t really know her, to tell the truth.
No? You sure about that?
Yeah, pretty sure.
I know you like old ’60’s tunes such as: Don’t Bring Me Down, Take Good Care Of My Baby, The Loco-Motion, Up On The Roof, One Fine Day, to name but a few?
Yes, I do! But she didn’t sing them!
No, but she and her then husband, Gerry Goffin, wrote them. And I am sure you know You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.
Yes, they wrote it for her. And boy did she make it her own (though Carole’s version is lovely). When I hear that song, I can’t help but think of the Murphy Brown episode where Murphy gives birth and looks in awe at her new baby boy and sings that song. I’ve got tears in my eyes just thinking about it.
Ya big suck (wipes away tear).
(Clears throat). K, moving on… How about You’ve Got a Friend? You must know that one!
James Taylor! Ooh, I love him… Wait. Not his either? Man…
Not his but he loved it so much, he recorded it and brought it all the way to number one. Would you believe that, so far, she has had 100 hit singles from her more than 400 songs recorded by more than 1,000 artists?
That is nuts. But what about songs she’s written for her own self?
You HAVE to know the album Tapestry. Quite a few hits on it and it’s won a ridiculous amount of awards, included being inducted in the Hall of Fame. It’s Too Late, So Far Away and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, to name the ones that I particularly love. Come to think of it, she didn’t record that many albums. But what an impact she made on the music industry.
You know? You’re right. I DO know Carole King after all! Have you been to see the musical of her life called Beautiful: The Carole King Musical? I’m starting to regret that I didn’t when I had the chance, foolishly thinking I didn’t know any of her songs.
No, I missed it too and am still kicking myself. Maybe I’ll have to make a trip to New York, with hopes it’ll still be playing on Broadway! Carole King has received so many accolades, I could bore you with them, but won’t except to tell you that I discovered that if you played all the songs she wrote and were recorded, by herself and others, you would have a continuous five-hours of music. How crazy is that? I will however, leave you with this fantabulous link to Aretha’s performance when Carole received the Kennedy Center Honors 2015. Carole’s reaction is priceless and President Obama’s tears were heartfelt.
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