Source Photos (L-R): Ruby Ray/Getty Images; Ian Dickson/Redferns; Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images; Paul Natkin/Getty Images; Daniel Boczarski/Redferns
5 Women Essential To Punk: Exene Cervenka, Poly Styrene, Alice Bag, Kathleen Hanna & The Linda Lindas
GRAMMY.com highlights some of the culture-shifting women who changed the course of punk, spotlighting one band who is moving the genre forward.
Challenging the status quo musically, lyrically, and visually, the pioneering women of punk made sure they were seen and heard. Punk rock didn’t require stellar musicianship or record-company backing; for the powerful women making noise in the genre, it was about overthrowing old tropes of women in music occupying sweet or subservient positions. These pioneers spewed and shared ideas, passion, poetry and individualism.
Late ‘70s New York and London were two of the flashpoints of the nascent punk music scene that welcomed women into the fold. In NYC, Patti Smith was a pioneer who remains quintessential, along with the more New Wave-leaning musicality of Debbie Harry and Blondie. In the U.K., Poly Styrene, Siouxsie Sioux, and the Slits made waves on their own terms. Punk's DIY ethos allowed girls and women everywhere to rebel against the macho excesses of ‘70s stadium rock and '80s hair metal.
Since its late-‘70s birth, punk has seen numerous iterations, and as an ethos and genre, it continues to thrive. And women remain an important part of the musical conversation. From the from Riot Grrrl movement kickstarted in the Pacific Northwest in the early ‘90s until the present day, numerous lineups, including Arrow DeWilde of Starcrawler and the Linda Lindas, have taken up the mantle, bringing punk into a new era.
GRAMMY.com highlights some of the pioneering, culture-shifting women who have changed the course of punk and one promising, up-and-coming band at the forefront of the genre’s future.
Exene Cervenka performing live in 1983 | Photo: Chris Walter/WireImage
Featuring the shared vocals and lyrics of Chicago-born poet Exene Cervenka and John Doe, X’s 1980 debut LP kicked Los Angeles’ ‘70s soft rock/ hippie era to the curb. Cervenka's enviable thrift-store style, pointed harmonies, bold vocals and personal, clever lyrics made her an unimpeachable icon of the L.A. music scene.
X songs including "Your Phone’s Off the Hook But You’re Not," "I Must Not Think Bad Things," "4th of July," plus stellar covers of "Wild Thing" and the Doors’ "Soul Kitchen," and the quartet’s best-known tune, "Los Angeles" are a small part of Cervenka’s prolific output.
In addition to eight X albums, including the most recent, 2020’s Alphabetland, Cervenka was in the country-leaning project The Knitters, while the first of several solo albums solo to date, 1989’s Old Wives,' was pointedly a record "for and about women," she told the Los Angeles Times.
Auntie Christ and the Original Sinners are among the singer/guitarist’s other musical projects, while Cervenka concurrently pursued poetry with collaborators including LA’s "unofficial poet laureate" Wanda Coleman and Lydia Lunch. As a fine artist, the X singer has been part of at least a dozen exhibitions and mounted a one-woman show, "Exene Cervenka: America the beautiful."
Proof of punk’s —and Cervenka’s — endurance and influence? In 2017, the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live honored the lineup with an exhibit titled "X: 40 Years of Punk in Los Angeles," which showcased the uncompromising vision that took Cervenka and the band from grimy punk clubs to Dick Clark’s "American Bandstand" and Rolling Stone accolades.
Poly Styrene, lead singer of the pioneering punk group X-Ray Spex, in 1977 | Photo: Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
An oral history of Poly Styrene’s life, DayGlo!, published in 2019, includes stories from the X-Ray Spex singer’s many admirers, including the Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock, The Slits' Tessa Pollitt and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore.
Born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, Poly Styrene was intensely individualistic, leaving home at 15, hitchhiking to music festivals and living in crash bands around her native U.K. In 1976, within a year of making her first demo, Elliott-Said saw the Sex Pistols, anointed herself Poly Styrene and founded X-Ray Spex. She was 19.
The band’s 1978 debut, Germ-Free Adolescents, has horns punctuating the speedy guitars and Poly Styrene’s cocky vocals. Still-memorable songs like "Germfree Adolescence," "Art-i-Ficial," "Identity" and "The Day The World Turned DayGlo" ensure the band’s legacy, which includes influencing bands from Romeo Void to the Waitresses.
Though Styrene died from cancer at the age of 53, daughter Celeste Bell (singer of Celeste Dos Santos and The Tabloid Queens) has helped cement her mother’s place in punk history. The award-winning documentary Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, came out in 2021, and was co-directed by Bell. In the doc, Styrene's personal diaries are narrated by actress Ruth Negga, an artist who shares Poly Styrene’s Irish-African heritage and bold spirit.
Alice Bag performing at the Mabuhay Gardens in 1978 | Photo: Ruby Ray/Getty Images
The title of Alice Bag's 2011 memoir — Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage: A Chicana Punk Story — only hints at the stories the singer/songwriter, musician, author, artist, educator and feminist has lived.
As lead singer and co-founder of the Bags (also featuring bassist Patricia Morrison) the vocalist born Alicia Armendariz found herself at the forefront of the original LA punk scene. The Alice Bag Band was featured in the Penelope Spheeris documentary The Decline of Western Civilization before Bag when onto stints in other groundbreaking lineups, including Castration Squad, Cholita and Las Tres.
Bag’s speaking engagements, music, art and writing further the initial inroads made as young punk singer ‘70s and ’80s. Bag’s second book, 2015’s Pipe Bomb for the Soul in 2015 joined her memoir as a staple in gender, musicology and Chicana studies courses across the country.
As a solo artist, Alice Bag’s self-titled 2016 debut album, featuring the sharp single "No Means No" and an updated feminist take on the "girl group" anthem, "He’s So Sorry," was named one of the best albums of 2016 by AllMusic and Pitchfork. Two more solo albums and acclaim followed, including the punky 2020 single "Sister Dynamite," with the trenchant lyrics "she’s so tired of fragile masculinity."
She continues to inspire and influence: In 2018, the City of Los Angeles officially recognized Alice for her "profound influence on music and the punk rock scene in Los Angeles and her activism for the LGBTQ community and speaking out against social injustice."
Kathleen Hanna performing at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival | Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
With more than 24 million Spotify streams, Bikini Kill’s "Rebel Girl" is an enduring anthem for women of all ages and stages. When the tune dropped 1993, Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna was already a voice for third-wave feminism thanks to her collaborations with like-minded young women on ideas, music and zines that launched the Riot Grrrl movement.
That call to action for young women to embrace feminism, especially via the punk rock scene, arose alongside grunge, and still resonates powerfully more than 30 years later. By the time the band broke up in 1996, the frontwomen had a plethora of side projects and guest appearances with top indie musicians among her many accomplishments.
In addition to spawning and empowering many bands, writers and artists, Hanna’s own commitment to art and activism remains strong. In 1991, she performed with Bikini Kill a Pro-Choice Rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; in 2011 she gave a speech at a Planned Parenthood "Stand Up for Women's Health" Rally.
A documentary about Hanna titled The Punk Singer chronicled her life and work up until its 2013 release. Fronting the groups Le Tigre and the Julie Ruin still with a DIY ethos, Hanna also reformed Bikini Kill for its first show in 20 years in 2019… and had the current wave Riot grrrls, irrepressible L.A. lineup the Linda Lindas, opening. The future’s unwritten, but the end is nowhere near.
The Linda Lindas
The Linda Lindas as guests on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in 2021 | Photo: Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images
By the time the Linda Lindas’ Los Angeles Public Library performance of "Racist Sexist Boy" went viral in May 2021, the three teen (and one pre-) musicians were anointed with the mantle worn by previous all-female punk band groundbreakers including Bikini Kill.
It was late April 2019 when Amy Poehler saw the Linda Lindas open for Bikini Kill and recruited them for her 2020 film Moxie, where they perform Kathleen Hanna and co.’s iconic "Rebel Girl." In 2020, the Linda Lindas wrote a song for the Netflix documentary The Claudia Kishi Club.
"Racist Sexist Boy" tells the true story of an experience Mila, the band's drummer, had when a schoolmate made a racist comment before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the tune became a social media hit, all the right people (Tom Morello, Thurston Moore) took notice, and the band scored a deal with respected punk label Epitaph.
Self-described as "Half Asian / Half Latinx. Sisters, cousins and friends who play music together because it’s fun!" the Linda Lindas "channel the spirit of original punk, power pop, and new wave through today's ears, eyes, and minds." Ranging in age from 11-17, the quartet have already played with punk legends the Dils, the Gears, and Phranc. Their debut LP, the aptly titled Growing Up, came out in 2022, leading to appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, gigs in New York, and a tour with Japanese Breakfast and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The Linda Linda appear to have a firm hold on their career and position, as a sort of musical cri de Coeur in the lyrics to "Growing Up" makes clear: "We'll talk 'bout problems we share / We'll talk 'bout things that ain't fair / We'll sing 'bout things we don't know / We'll sing to people and show / What it means to be young and growing up."
GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw
On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.
In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.
Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year
Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration
Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the
The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at
"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community."
Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list.
At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in
After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.
In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.
Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized.
For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: The Recording Academy
Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Alexa Zaske
This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.
The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.
Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."
Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.
Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed.
Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.
My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.
For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.
(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)
Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs
Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards
As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.
Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.
"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."