“I wanted to be a musician who happened to be a girl. Not a musical girl’ – Joan Jett
This year sees the release of Epix’s all-new MGM-owned series Women Who Rock, a mini-series of three one-hour episodes. Through each episode, Epix introduces you to some of the music industry’s most acclaimed female trailblazers.
We wanted to see why it’s so important to have shows like this available in 2022. The discussion around women’s rights and equality is heating up again, especially in light of the reversal of Roe v Wade in the United States. If this documentary has taught us anything, it’s that right now, more than ever, we need to hear, see and read about female success. Women Who Rock brings together an arsenal of information on how much the music industry has women to thank for its growth.
With guest appearances from well-known personalities Shaka Khan, Macy Gray, Kelis (to name a few), and video footage of artists, including Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Kate Bush, The Slits, Bikini Kill and much, much, more, Epix not only documents female musicians from the very beginning of rock ‘n’ roll, but covers a range of musical genres all paved by influential women.
One of the (many) big things that stood out to us about this documentary is that, although its title implies a rock orientation, Epix spotlighted women who have shaped and impacted across a myriad of genres. Women Who Rock may start with the rock industry, but it is by no means limited to it. Throughout this documentary, you are overwhelmed with the resounding success of all the women we have to thank for the current state of the music industry. Each of these women are stars in their own right, and oddly enough, fangirls of stars older than them, wiser than them, and younger than them. It is a sincere community of women who support women.
From the very beginning, women have paved the way for all genres of music. From Sister Rosetta Tharpe bringing a jazz-infused soul to rock ‘n’ roll, Joan Baez’s crisp, undying touch to the soul, the outspoken grit of riot grrrl in the punk scene, and Salt’s hyper-sexual feminist approach -N-Pepa to hip hop. Through this documentary, Epix single-handedly explains how important it is to recognize women in music, without missing a single beat. In doing so, Epix simultaneously covers a range of relevant political, social and cultural affairs that occurred during each star’s era of glory. Binding together an entire film of events over a series of just three episodes, Epix paints a vivid picture not only of the bravery, perseverance and talent of these women, but also of the environment that often acted as obstacles. permanent to their success.
A common theme is that many of the songs produced, written, and covered by these artists were driven by issues women still struggle with today: sexism, racism, homophobia, and just plain incompetence. In episode two, guitarist of glam-rock band Heart, Nancy Wilson recounts that her sister Ann Wilson (the band’s singer) wrote their famous hit “Barracuda” about misogyny, after a man made a comment inappropriate implying that she was in an intimate relationship with her sister.
In the same episode, Pat Benatar says, “I wanted to break up the boys’ club. I wanted to break that bullshit” talking about how she saw the need to reshape the way the music industry viewed rock’ n’roll. In episode three, Tori Amos says, “You couldn’t lose a client or you’d lose your job. But I thought to myself, if I don’t do something, I’m going to die in that bar, at the piano , smelling of beer, (and I hate beer). This comment comes during the discussion of the relentless stream of men who would abuse their power and use their money as a weapon of the hierarchy. The sad reality is that despite their talent or ambition, women struggled (and sometimes still struggle) to validate their abilities, without the weight of men overpowering them. could jeopardize your income and have a ripple effect on your re career as a budding musician. It was a threatening time for smart, innovative women trying to break into the music industry, and often meant putting themselves through psychological pain just to get the recognition you deserved.
Women Who Rock showcases the good, the bad, and the ugly of female history behind the evolution of the music industry. Some of its healthiest moments come at the transitions between eras, in which you see the evolution of women’s fashion in rock ‘n’ roll. Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Wanda Jackson can be seen playing guitar in heels and dresses, portraying a nicer but still groundbreaking “women can rock too” with a touch of sophistication and glamour. Fast forward in time and artists like Tina Turner and the Wilson Sisters of Heart rocked mules and wigs, as did the infamous boy bands that sold millions of copies of their overproduced records. The rock industry has seen so many faces, subgenres, and styles in its path, and it’s with some of these artists that we can truly be grateful to see its current shape.
But why is this series so important today? Growing up between the 1950s and 1980s, the chances of you reading or seeing positive news stories about women in rock ‘n’ roll were slim to none. Despite the new talents emerging every day, women do not have it easy. Fast forward to the late 80s and early 90s and television was a big movement and a gateway for musicians: at this point seeing women in rock bands was starting to normalize, but there was still a long way to go. Women Who Rock is an incredible visual reflection of some of the biggest stars in the music industry… who happen to be women. Historically, the recognition of women in rock’n’roll has never really been given. Women Who Rock takes a look at rolling back the clocks, researching and giving credit to those who are due.
Right now, there are more women in rock ‘n’ roll than there ever have been, but that doesn’t mean the job is finally done. Because every day, women in music have to fight for their corner: for bigger stages, to be considered for festival line-ups, to be taken seriously as band members and not be mistaken for groupies. While the last century has seen the music industry evolve, the story doesn’t end there, and that’s why Women Who Rock is so important today, tomorrow, and far into the future. As things stand, women are still second guessed and overlooked by their male peers. The music industry still has a long way to go, but we are grateful to the women who have led it to where it is now.
Watch the series.