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happy birthday wanda jackson!

October 22nd, 2007     by Thea Lim     Comments

You know, it’s not often that you go to a rock show and hear a performer drop lines like, “So I decided to take the advice of my friend, Elvis Presley…”

Last Friday I had the chance to hit two really great birds with one stone - I got to see my buddies The Stolen Minks (how can you not love a band whose lyrics include the lines “Girls on the stage and boys on the floor!” and “Batman, you’re the sex!”?) open for Wanda Jackson, on Jackson’s 70th birthday. And even though this will reveal me as a horrible phoney for being at her show in the first place, on Friday I also finally figured out just who Jackson is.

Wanda Jackson, as I discovered, is the First Lady of Rock and Roll. What that means is that she was the first girl to ever get up on stage with a guitar and rock out. That may not sound like a big deal, but just think about what life was like in 1954 for ladies, and then think about the kind of guts you’d have to have to get up on a stage and rock and roll if you were a lady back then.

It’s kinda interesting that Jackson is not more well-known. I can tell you all sorts of things about Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen (two boys who’ve waxed at length about how great she is), but until Friday I was only distantly familiar with Jackson. Could it be, ahem, at least in part because she’s a lady? I wonder…

Elvis Costello seems to think so. As he says in a letter to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame asking them to once and for all induct Jackson:

For heaven’s sake, the whole [Hall] risks ridicule and having the appearance of being a little boy’s club unless it acknowledges the contribution of one of the first women of rock and roll.

On the one hand, to me there are far huger problems with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and rock and roll in general) than just the exclusion of Jackson from their roster. Like for example, the fact that rock and roll really comes from the African American community, and was hijacked by white folks in the 50’s, with no respect or due ever given to the people who invented it - to this day. (And that’s really not a radical statement! It’s the basic premise of the extremely mainstream and extremely schmaltzy musical, Dreamgirls.)

But on the other hand, I’m a big fan of solidarity. We can work for acknowledgement of both women and black folks in rock and roll at the same time, can’t we?

But back to me and Wanda, last Friday was also the day before her 70th birthday, and she had this lovely thing to say, (I’m quoting from memory so this isn’t going to be spot on):

When I turned 60, I thought, that’s it, my life is over. But the last ten years have been the best ten years of my life. I can’t wait to see what my 70’s hold. So don’t ever think that your life is over!

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, on Saturday night, I got to see a completely different kind of lady musician trailblazer: MIA. Could you ask for a better weekend?

Tags: playlist, shameless behaviour

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