Forget what it sounds like for a minute, let’s consider the spirit of rock and roll: Rebellious. Energetic. Vocal. Independent. Driven. Unapologetic. Powerful. They’re characteristics I could attribute to damn-near every sister I know.
In fact, my personal Who’s Who of Rock and Roll is stacked with bomb Black women. Betty Davis. Grace Jones. Tina Turner. Aretha Franklin. Nona Hendryx. Poly Styrene. Joan Armatrading. Joyce Kennedy… and that’s just 1976-77.
So why do so many people go out of their way to marginalize or flat-out disregard Black women as both pioneers and torchbearers of rock? Why are we so indifferent to the fact that more than a few African-American women strapped an instrument to their back and helped carry the genre from the fields to the church to the juke joint to the charts to a multimillion-dollar industry?
Probably because someone told us it wasn’t ours and we chose to believe it. They said it was devil’s music, so we cast it out. We let it go because someone gave it white skin, a penis, and the green light to cross boundaries that Black people couldn’t. And in so doing, they convinced the world that our pioneers didn’t deserve equal recognition, equal exposure or equal ownership.