Courtney Love has lent her intellect, which has the fury and speed of Taz, to an op-ed in the Guardian about gender and racial disparity in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees. The piece, “Why are women so marginalized by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?,” is based on the premise that, like most gates, white men have a much easier time getting through. “Today, just 8.48 percent of the inductees are women,” she writes.
This year’s nominees are cause of cautious optimism—as Love points out, “more women were nominated in one year than at any time in its 40-year history.” These include Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, and Missy Elliott, whom Love deems “iconoclasts.” They also include Meg White of the White Stripes and recent Twitter debate, Gillian Gilbert of New Order, and Sheryl Crow, “a woman who subverted the boys club.” (Full disclosure: I am a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voter. Many people I voted for this year are mentioned in this paragraph.)
Love makes a passionate case for inducting Bush (“a pioneer of synthesizers and music videos”) and Chaka Khan (“a singular figure, she has been the Queen of Funk since she was barely out of her teens”), who is not nominated this year but has been in the past. She bemoans that “Beastie Boys were inducted in 2012 ahead of most of the Black hip-hop artists they learned to rhyme from,” and notes that a Tribe Called Quest, nominated in 2022 and once again this year, face “a roll of the dice against the white rockers they are forced to compete with on the ballots.”
“You can write the Rock Hall off as a ‘boomer tomb’ and argue that it is building a totem to its own irrelevance,” writes Love. “Why should we care who is in and who is not? But as scornful as its inductions have been, the Rock Hall is a bulwark against erasure, which every female artist faces whether they long for the honor or want to spit on it. It is still game recognizing game, history made and marked.”
Her end is even more exacting: “If the Rock Hall is not willing to look at the ways it is replicating the violence of structural racism and sexism that artists face in the music industry, if it cannot properly honor what visionary women artists have created, innovated, revolutionized and contributed to popular music – well, then let it go to hell in a handbag.”
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It’s a great showing from Love, the sharp, perpetual pop-cultural scholar in wholly coherent mode, proving that everyone needs an editor. However, not everyone is going to like it. In the caption of an Instagram post promoting the essay, Love, in classic form, took issue with edits and insertions: “@guardian censored 🤐 my line ‘RUN BY A GOVERNING BOARD MADE UP OF MUSIC’S MOST MALEVOLENT, A VIRTUAL BLACK HOLE OF THE HELLISH.’ See board list (slide 2) Remember #freebritney? Yeah. All them & MORE very bad actors.” The 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Board of Directors she’s referring to includes legendary industry suits like Lyor Cohen, Seymour Stein, and Irving Azoff, former MTV CEO Judy McGrath, and artists LL Cool J and Pharrell Williams.
Love further took issue with “marginalized” (which the Guardian, being British and all, prints as “marginalised,” though that’s not the source of Love’s beef). “I never used the word ‘marginalized’ applied to 51 percent of the worlds population (censored by a woman! Is this why people use substack?),” wrote Love. Uh, yeah, actually! Also, Instagram. Anyway, the point is that cleaned-up Courtney Love is great, but so is raw, shit-talking Courtney—and with this story and its accompanying Instagram, we get both. Win/win.