It is only on weekends when I am completely able to enjoy reading newspapers, courtesy, hectic lifestyle and ever looming work commitments. On my last weekend, while sifting pages of an old tabloid (yeah, when I get time, I even rake up old stuff, lol!), I came upon an interesting piece – a poll on the greatest all-time rock legends (now this was far better and tempting than the sorry state of Indian politics, never ending Kashmir issue, inflation, match-fixing, CWG mess, celebrity link-ups and what not).
It was a poll which had a list of twenty greatest rock legends of all times, which included Freddie Mercury, followed by Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Bon Jovi’s Jon Bon Jovi, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, former Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash, U2’s Bono, Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, former Guns N Roses frontman AXl Rose, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, The Door’s Jim Morrison, former Beatles member Paul McCartney, former Nirvana
drummer and Foo Fighter singer Dave Grohl, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, Queen’s Brian May and Metallica frontman James Hetfield.
Okay, it’s a pretty long and impressive list and a fitting ode to the greatest rock stars of all-time. Generally after reading the names, I would have jumped to another interesting piece which surprisingly did not happen! I kept pondering over the list of greatest rock legends, especially on the aforementioned list of rock stars, which surprisingly did not include any single female rock star, not even in its top twenty!
It would be incorrect to say that rock music is an ‘all-white male’ phenomenon because we do have Freddie Mercury who had Indian roots and Jimi Hendrix, who was part African-American and Cherokee. If we go back in time, we find that international music - especially rock has always been a male prerogative. Be it super groups like Beatles, Rolling Stones or legends like Elvis Presley (heya, Michael Jackson is a pop star), there have been hardly any women in the fray. Rock and roll too had its share of free-spirited, bohemian, ultra-modern rock chicks like Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux and Ann and Nancy Wilson – a few of female rock stars whom I have always admired. But they always remain a minority in comparison to the constellation of male rock stars or super groups. There has been ABBA with its celebrated female icons – Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, but they could never make it big all alone. Then there is Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cher, Spice Girls (now disbanded), Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Kylie Minogue, Sheryl Crow, Nelly Furtado, Beyonce, Shakira, Rihanna, Fergie, Katy Perry and the latest shocker Lady Gaga (whose bizarre antics are more of a resistance to masculine conformity rather than dumb attention grabbing tricks), but all of them belong to the genre of pop rather than pure rock and roll.
If one goes back to the history of rock and roll, one finds struggling female rockers who are pitted against the male-centric world. They are creative, talented, bold, bohemian, and original; yet struggle to find a footing in the world of rock and roll. It is not only surprising but shocking that none of the female rock stars could make it to the top twenty of greatest rock legends of all times.
Though I have no reservation with such polls, but they reek of a great bias against female rockers, who are considered a pariah, broaching upon male territory. Music critics and theorists claim that female rock stars have always been considered as an aberration when it comes to their gender identity which is amorphous within male counterparts. Yes, female rockers are a classic case of left of centre, no matter how talented they are, their struggle for survival and recognition continues...
(The views expressed by the author are personal)