Rock's Power Women Celebrated in New Exhibition

By | July 9, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The rock world’s top 20 female icons are celebrated in a photographic exhibition opening at Britain’s National Portrait Gallery Monday.

The exhibition, “She Bop,” was inspired by former music journalist Lucy O’Brien’s book “She Bop II: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop and Soul.”

Exhibits range from rocker Chrissie Hynde to soul diva Dusty Springfield and disco queen Madonna ( news – web sites).

“Female artists haven’t been given the recognition that they’ve deserved and I felt there was a whole history of women to be written to chart how big a part women have played in popular music,” says O’Brien of her book and the exhibition.

“Images of women usually portray them as pretty or good looking. These photographs are different in that they show the charisma and power of the singers,” adds the author, who used to work for British music newspaper New Musical Express.

The portraits – “of singers on the front line, who demand to be seen and heard,” says O’Brien – were taken by noted music photographers such as Jill Furmovosky, Pennie Smith, Val Wilmer, Caroline Coon, Gered Mankovitz and Eric Watson.

Furmovosky’s pictures include Hynde, Joan Armatrading, Icelandic chanteuse Bjork and the Canadian k.d Lang, who is as well known for her outspoken lesbianism as for her soaring voice, while photographer Smith has collaborated with Debbie Harry.

Running to Nov. 3, the exhibition opens with the 1960s, a decade that unearthed ex-convent schoolgirl Marianne Faithfull, the bare-footed Eurovision-winning Sandie Shaw and Springfield.

“That was an era of innocence,” says the display’s curator, Terence Pepper. “Faithful posing wearing white socks and we all know what happened next,” he adds of the husky-voiced singer who blazed a trail with a prodigious lifestyle of bed-hopping – she lived with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger for several years – and drug abuse.

The 1970s saw the emergence of leather-clad Suzi Quatro, the soulful Armatrading, the swirling voice and movements of Kate Bush and female punk representatives Siousie Sioux and The Slits.

The 1980s are marked by Sade’s cool and Annie Lennox in her post-Eurythmics career. More recent portraits include P J Harvey, as well as “honorary Brits” through marriage or residence, such as Madonna, Debbie Harry and Hynde.

Lang sneaks in to the top 20 by virtue of her Commonwealth connections says Pepper, who adds that, “We haven’t done a proper countdown of women singers. We might do that at the exhibition’s end.”

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