Black Women In Rock

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This film reveals a lineage of Black Women In Rock that dates back to the earliest influencers. These women who represent the root of rock laid an invisible foundation for their successors. Like a parent to a child, there is a DNA that has been passed down through this lineage of women - a bold, authentic, sexually free, and uncensored voice they all share.


Using archival footage, we will show Memphis Minnie sing with unregrettable honesty about her sexual exploits, even drug use, in the 1920’s-40’s. Big Mama Thornton, who belted the original, “Hound Dog,” that was later recorded by Elvis often strutted masculine, 3-piece suits and a brim - a side of her you rarely see depicted in nostalgic photographs. Sister Rosetta Tharpe - the Gospel Singer we watch today on the famed BBC clip in her Sunday hat and heels, was unapologetically bi-sexual. Despite Church-going naysayers, she had multiple lovers, marriages, and regularly criss-crossed the forbidden line between secular and religious music. Rockers like the legendary Chuck Berry, credit Sister Rosetta as a key influence on his musical style.


Black Women In Rock reveal that they receive a lot of their inspiration from one of the most revolutionary periods in our history - the 1970’s. When the Black Power Movement and The Women’s Movement were in full swing, rock music became a political statement as much as a source of entertainment that brought the races together, despite conservative opposition.


At a time when female artists simply did what they were told by record company execs, Betty Davis insisted on producing and writing her own music. Her bold approach, was unprecedented - from her music to her look - wearing lingerie onstage long before Madonna. Davis’ brand of rock is often categorized as funk - a genre that was used to segregate black rock fans from white. Artist, SATE says, "When I found Betty, she created a space for me where blues, funk and rock intersected and made sense. I knew what I heard in my head with my own music, but I couldn’t translate it until I heard her — then everything made sense...She is black girl magic, no fucks given, owning her sexuality."

Joyce Kennedy of Mother’s Finest unveils the challenges of being lead singer of one of the first multi-cultural rock groups. Club owners would hear their music, book the band, then cancel when Mother’s Finest arrived and they realized the group was primarily black. Their 1976 release, “Niggaz Can’t Sing Rock n’ Roll,” was a critique on the American music industry’s attempt to exclude the very people who inspired the sound. Shortly after Tina signed with Capital Records, Kennedy met with a music exec in hopes of a deal, only to be told, “We don’t need another black woman in rock.” What that music exec didn't realize is these women  were not asking for permission.