Twenty Flight Rock
The Summer Rock Roundup
We Gotta Get Outta This PlaceThe True, Tough Story of Women in Rock
by Gerri Hershey
Atlantic Monthly Press, 294 pp., $25
Gerri Hershey's Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music was one of the definitive works on the subject because it really captured the heart and soul of the music. Her latest work, We Gotta Get Outta This Place: The True, Tough Story of Women in Rock, focuses on anecdotes about women singer/songwriters/divas in the music business -- timely, given that women have probably never been more commercially prominent. It's a funny, sometimes tragic, and ultimately moving read that feels like having an intimate chat with Hershey dishing about many of the most famous and seminal artists in the field. As a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone and other publications, Hershey is one of the finest music writers working today and has had occasion to talk to literally hundreds of artists. Here she draws upon her memories and her notes to retell the stories of dozens of the most significant female artists.
It's an essay that moves at whim from artist to artist more or less like a long conversation. No attempt is made to tell the stories in chronological fashion, or separate artists by chapter, musical genre, or time period. She also focuses almost exclusively on women as singers, not on female musicians, producers, or label owners, although many of the artists included also play instruments. This leads to the exclusion of a number of the most historically significant females in the music biz from Cordell Jackson and Carol Kaye to Genya Ravan, Fanny, and Lynn Carey/The Carrie Nations, none of whom are household names but all of whom are incalculably important as pioneers, going where no member of their gender had gone before.
But that's merely observation, not criticism. This Place is a very warm, human, and enjoyable book that's a bit hard to categorize. And really, it's no small thing at all to make a reader feel they've just had an intimate conversation with Cher and Tina Turner and found out why they really stayed so long in loveless marriages. You'll learn a lot of fascinating little tidbits about music history you didn't know, will feel a bit more empathy for some superstar divas than you ever thought you could, and will be glad you spent time reading it. And its nonlinear construction means you can enjoy as little as a page or two at a time, and easily pick up where you left off later.