Twenty-five years ago, singer-songwriter and storied ASPCA spokeswoman, Sarah MacLaughlin convened the first-ever Lilith Fair, a legendary event that became synonymous with alternative women musicians of the late 1990s.
Frustrated by the misogynistic music and concert industry executives convinced that music by—and for—women didn’t sell, MacLaughlin proved them all wrong. From 1997 to 1999, Lilith Fair cemented itself as the stuff of musical mythology, featuring everyone from Fiona Apple to Lisa Loeb to Tracy Chapman. Prince showed up to see Sheryl Crow. Young Missy Elliot, Christina Aguilera, Dido, Nelly Furtado and Eryka Badu all appeared on its stage. As recently remembered by Marissa R. Moss in the book Her Country, The Chicks’ Martie Maguire played the fiddle as no man had ever done before: wearing a crop top.
It was the top-grossing music festival of the late 1990s and, as music writer Jessica Hopper told NPR on Tuesday, “It showed people models of possibility.”
The artists who played Lilith Fair were unabashed when it came to speaking out about injustice, and the space they created allowed for attendees to sing, dance and simply exist, largely sans the fear of being groped by male concert-goers as they might’ve at other venues.
Reflecting on its 25th anniversary, Jezebel staffers brainstormed who would be in our dream Lilith Fair lineup: a compilation of women, femme and non-binary musicians who have refused to simply “shut up and sing,” featured here alongside some of their progressive and liberatory proclamations.