Long live the women of rock

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Karen Kunawicz

On the last Sunday of July, I had the pleasure of seeing Fleetwood Mac with singer, keyboardist and songwriter Christine McVie (74) and singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks (69) at Classics East. A few days later, on the first day of August, I caught Garbage with singer-songwriter Shirley Manson (50) and Blondie with singer-songwriter Debbie Harry (72).

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Blondie and Garbage are together this summer for the Rage and Rapture tour that started on July 5 in Saratoga, California and ends August 14 in Mexico City, Mexico.

You can’t help but admire these women—they have careers in the industry lasting decades and their music, while being embraced by everyone, has been a source of inspiration, encouragement and strength to women around the world, including me.

The world needs larger than life rocker chicks like Debbie and Shirley who can remind women we can be ourselves no matter how strange or quirky or queer we are, that we can be rebels against labels, restrictive stereotypes and outdated beliefs and that women can absolutely command attention.

Apart from singing crowd favorites for the tour, Garbage has been opening their sets with the song “No Horses” which has a powerful and sexy beat but touches on themes of authoritarianism with lyrics like: “There will be no cops, just men with guns/ In their shiny black uniforms and their big black boots/ With their shiny black batons and their sleek black cars/ With their fingers on the trigger.”

Manson elaborates in a Variety interview: “I was driving through the Scottish countryside last year and looking at these fields of horses and thinking, what will happen to them when we don’t need them as much as we once did…it’s an imagining of the future where the authorities destroy anything that doesn’t make large amounts of money.”

The voice and vision that is Shirley Manson

While the Blondie set included great new songs from the new effort “Pollinator,” the band opened up with the classic “One Way Or Another” and Debbie entered with a glittering bee headpiece and a cape that read: “Stop Fucking the Planet.” They had the full house at the Beacon Theater on their feet and cheering.

I have to give special mention to keyboardist Matt Katz Bohen who has been with the band since 2008 and original drummer Clem Burke who astounded me with their performance while they were playing off each other during “Call Me.”

Blondie ended on a sweet high note by bringing a youth brass band out to perform “The Tide is High” with them.

On a more somber one, Sinead O’ Connor whose 1987 album “The Lion and The Cobra” I played over and over and over again, delivered a sad and disturbing 12 minute video message on Facebook recently. She was having a bit of meltdown and talked about her mental illness from her room in a Travelodge in Hackensack, New Jersey. She acknowledged her loneliness and sickness and reached out to loved ones in Ireland to please look after her.

I hope she gets the help and attention she needs and that she’ll be taking her first steps for a recovery and turn around.

Once again, I salute the brave, unusual, beautiful outspoken women of rock.

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