Change Your World-NOT your Body

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Doing Woman Different: Suzi Quatro

Suzi Quatro was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1950 and described early in her rock N roll career as
"Of all female rock singers, she appears the most emancipated: a small girl leading an all-man group in which she herself plays bass guitar. The image is of a tomboy, lank-haired, tight-bottomed and (twice) tattooed; a rocker, a brooder, a loner, a knife-carrier; a hell-cat, a wild cat, a storm child, refugee from the frightened city of Detroit.[13][c]"
 
Growing up in a working class shop rat family in the heart of Detroit, Quatro developed her tough girl attitude quite young. An attitude that definitely served her well in the all male spaces of rock N roll and an attitude still very much at the core of her being today. Quatro began her music career in Detroit but later settled and still resides in England. She has sold over 50 million records and last year at the Detroit Music awards received the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award.
Like many Americans in the 70's, my first acquaintance with Suzi Quatro was with her acting portrayal of the tough rocking streetwise reform school tomboy on Happy Days, Leather Tuscadero. 
Suzi summed up a few years ago her feelings on being a rock N roll female influence to other women and said this:

"Before I did what I did, we didn't have a place in rock 'n' roll. Not really. You had your Grace Slicks and all that, but that's not what I did. I was the first to be taken seriously as a female rock 'n' roll musician and singer. That hadn't been done before. I played the boys at their own game. For everybody that came afterward, it was a little bit easier, which is good. I'm proud of that. If I have a legacy, that's what it is. It's nothing I take lightly. It was gonna happen sooner or later. In 2014, I will have done my job 50 years. It was gonna be done by somebody, and I think it fell to me to do because I don't look at gender. I never have. It doesn't occur to me if a 6-foot-tall guy has pissed me off not to square up to him. That's just the way I am. If I wanted to play a bass solo, it never occurred to me that I couldn't. When I saw Elvis for the first time when I was 5, I decided I wanted to be him, and it didn't occur to me that he was a guy. That's why it had to fall to somebody like me".


As a very young tomboy, Quatro's portrayal of Leather gave me new insight into the possibilities of carrying female differently even into young adulthood and beyond. Tomboys never change, unless we allow society to change us, and nothing or no one (not even The Fonz) was going to change Leather! I loved that strong female attitude and still do! Suzi Quatro did/does female differently and her important presence helped many other girls realize they could to!

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4 comments:

  1. I love this posts about the women doing woman differently. They are a great reminder that's it's o.k to be a butch/tomboy and not have to change your body. I come back to them to remind myself when the pressure to transition is weighting on me. Keep up the good work, Dirt!

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  2. Anon, thank you and glad you're getting some good strong female inspirations here!

    dirt

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  3. Dirt, (and readers), have you seen any youtube videos of baroque operas, in which the hero is played by a woman? I'd like to introduce this topic, because it's a huge inspiration to me, and I think it could be helpful to young women who don't want to be Barbie. The amazing thing about these old operas, aside from the beautiful music, is that a woman can play Julius Caesar and make out with Cleopatra, while everyone knows that, when she takes off the costume, she is really a woman. A lot of productions emphasize the girl/girl aspect. One opera director said, "of course they're both women."

    I'm always frustrated that baroque opera, which has so many positive role models for women, is unknown to most of the women who really need to see it. It illustrates the difference between sex and gender. This type of casting isn't rare at all, it's the norm. This is because in the baroque era, audiences preferred high voices, so heroes either were sung by castrati (males who have been castrated as children so they could sing soprano as adults) or women. Nowadays, male baroque singers are countertenors (men who sing in falsetto but are anatomically normal and can also sing tenor or baritone).

    Sorry to go on at such length, but aside from opera blogs, I've never seen this very important topic mentioned on gender-critical blogs.

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  4. I just want to say that I love this series here. I've learned about lots of women I would've never heard of otherwise.

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