“Gender discrimination and gender segregation have posed considerable barriers to women’s musical talent. Still, many women musicians around the world challenge traditionally held beliefs about gender and women’s social status simply by playing a certain instrument or singing a certain song.” Smithsonian Folkways Magazine
I wanted to feature some of the Phenomenal Women who have influenced, nurtured and continue to be inspirational in my life, since the 60’s when civil rights was not solely relegated to race. Mom was my role model. My BFF and beside the fact that she was the “best mom”; it’s because she was an educator who believed and promoted multiethnic and gender culturalism that would also include women in order to successfully provide the catalyst for assimilation into American Life. That meant not to segregate, but to incorporate where we all would learn about diversity and to respect and appreciate one another. The air was so emotionally charged with racism that being “mixed race” was difficult for me to feel comfortable and fit in. My father, forced to deal racism in the jazz world, chose not make waves by including women musicians not because of their abilities, it was because he succumbed to the insuperable chauvinism and that was steeped in the jazz tradition because he felt it would’ve made the situation worse on both fronts. Neither agenda survived! The decade was phenomenal in terms of growing up. I was right in the think of it and although the 60’s decade changed the face of America’s civil and cultural revolution, 1965 was “My Year of Musical Thinking” when I fell in love with Jazz, the sound of words and modern art making it the most transformative and phenomenal year of my life. It is my frame of reference. It became my cultural compass where diversity was a substrate in every conceivable direction.
Comments like “She’s not supposed to play like that! And “She plays like a man” were epithets that have been uttered throughout the early life of jazz when describing women musicians at the turn of the 20th Century. Sex discrimination, segregation and tradition have been the foremost barriers that impacted women’s musical talent and ability to perform. Still, many women musicians around the world continue to challenge and transform traditionally held beliefs about gender and women’s social status simply by playing the piano or guitar or performing a certain song. Additionally, songwriting was something that also fell into the fray as well.
Bley was born in Oakland, California. Her father, a piano teacher and church choirmaster, encouraged her to sing and to learn to play the piano. After giving up the church to immerse herself in roller skating at the age of fourteen, she moved to New York at seventeen and became a cigarette girl at Birdland, where she met jazz pianist Paul Bley, whom she married in 1957. He encouraged her to start composing. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The battle of the sexes challenged the socially and culturally functioned under the assumption that men are superior to women. Ironically, this did not apply to women musicians. Those beliefs infiltrated medicine; science and the Arts & Entertainment world, respectively. The line in the sand of equality between men and women has become smudged because those differences lost ground at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 60’s racial and gender differences were a celebration of those differences. In some circles of society, politically correct thinking began obscuring and diminishing those differences. What do you think? Peace Out! 😎 ♥
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