PBS-TV Documentary Preview: “Women Who Rock,” 11/18/11
“Women Who Rock,” part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival, is a sparkling documentary celebrating the history of women in rock n’ roll. It opens with two powerful performance clips of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World,” first, with Brown himself, followed by pop singer Christina Aguilera in epic, take-no-prisoners vocal performances. It’s been a particularly true statement for rock music: ” This is a man’s world/But it wouldn’t mean nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl.” Women artists have often been given far less than their due, and “Women Who Rock” takes viewers on a fascinating musical journey, and one that parallels women’s rights history as well.
The film takes us back to the earliest days of recorded music when blues pioneers like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith were boldly going where no women had gone before with racy lyrics and aggressive vocals, and further fills out rock’s pre-history with gospel greats Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson, country legend “Mother” Maybelle Carter and Wanda Jackson, the first female rockabilly artist. “Women Who Rock” takes us from the Brill Building songs of Carole King and Cynthia Weil to Wall-Of-Sound vocal goddess Darlene Love, the blues-rock swagger of Janis Joplin, and the pure pop of Cyndi Lauper, with interviews and fantastic live song segments from many more of rock’s best female talents like Aretha Franklin, Debbie Harry, and Kathleen Hanna. Music critics Ann Powers, Holly George Warren, and Nelson George offer insightful and witty narrative, bringing continuity and context to the film.
“Women Who Rock” is uplifting, inspirational, and fun, and a film that music fans of all ages can enjoy. It premieres on Friday, November 18, 2011 on PBS stations across the country (9PM PST on Seattle’s KTCS9; other areas, please check your local listings).