Top Days in Music History, Minus the Testosterone

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Last month, Blender published 100 Days That Changed Music, or, in their own humble words, a list of “the most earth–shakingly important days in music, ever.”

Assuming they really mean “in Western pop music” (since there is no mention of Mozart or Miriam Makeba), some of the choices are obvious — the Beatles on Ed Sullivan (#1); some are insightful — the birth of free–form FM radio on San Francisco’s KMPX (#39); and some are amusing — Prince poses in black undies (#14). Most of them are markedly lacking in any awareness of or respect for the contributions of women. Instead, we get Janet Jackson‘s “Nipplegate” (#94), Tiffany at the mall (#57), and Madonna on a wedding cake (#19).

In other words, the “era of decency,” mall marketing, and a garter belt. Britney is the only other solo female artist to get a nod, but the #13 entry is about her break-up with JT and consists of a litany of his subsequent successes and her subsequent failures and embarrassments, primarily personal rather than musical.

A few bands with women make the list (Starship, ABBA), but the Velvet Underground nod fails to mention that December 11, 1965 wasn’t their first show, but their first with drummer Maureen Tucker, and the Ronettes entry is actually about Phil Spector rather than the original girl group or Ronnie Spector‘s fantastic voice.

Basically, Blender‘s got respect for Muzak, Jägermeister and Kiss‘s makeup, but not for Billie, Bonnie or even Beyonce. I’m no music historian, but there have got to be some key moments missing. Here are a few that I would consider for inclusion, in chronological order:

November 21, 1934: Ella Fitzgerald gets stage fright during Amateur Night at the Apollo

It’s hard to choose a single moment, but if the First Lady of Jazz had danced as she originally intended, she may not have won that night. With the $25 award in her pocket, Fitzgerald defied discrimination and started down a path that would take her to the top of the charts, the Grammy awards and the stage at Carnegie Hall. Her influence on and presence in American music can’t be underrated, even today. Here she is singing “Over the Rainbow.”

Ella Fitzgerald – Over the Rainbow

March 2, 1965: The Sound of Music premieres in New York

Maybe I’m biased because I think Julie Andrews is perfection, but really — can you think of any other movie musical that has defined the genre the way The Sound of Music still does? The songs are already in my head, where they’ll surely stay for some hours to come. The critically controversial film broke box office records, solidified the reputation of its star, and gave thousands of lesbians (hundreds of thousands?) their first crush. Really, how could we help it? Andrews is one of my favorite things to this day.

 

1992: k.d. lang comes out in The Advocate (if you know the specific date, post it in the comments!)

While we could debate the most influential coming-out in music history for hours, I have to nix Blender‘s choice of David Bowie; his claim to bisexuality was just one more aspect of his Ziggy Stardust persona, and Bowie himself later called it a mistake. My vote goes to lang, whose coming out as a lesbian wasn’t accompanied by other distractions and was therefore more risky and more real. Lang became America’s most visible gay icon and opened the door for many a girl with a guitar. Blender’s mostly unfunny and sometimes offensive Gayest Moments in Music further convince me they have no idea what they are talking about. Haven’t they listened to “Constant Craving” lately?

 

August 25, 1998: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is released

Hill might not be making the same kind of headlines these days, but her debut solo album was a breakout hit, bringing neo-soul front and center. With The Fugees, she had already infused hip-hop with new thought and energy, and on Miseducation the star upped the ante; her innovation earned her five Grammy awards, more than any woman in history to that point, and no doubt she deserved them.

 

My list is clearly not exhaustive — I could easily add another dozen days, involving women from Ma Rainey to the Spice Girls, but I want to hear your ideas. What did Blender miss? What days do you think have changed music forever?

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