Ideally, you wouldn’t need a list like this, which might sound as patronizing as a “women in rock” magazine issue, but like most other professions, music journalism is still mostly a sausage fest. Think of about it. Who’s the most revered saint in the biz? Lester Bangs. Who are the elder statesmen? Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, Richard Meltzer. The recent “voice of a generation”? Chuck Klosterman. Sure, we admire ’em but do you notice a pattern here?
A sea change may be happening, though. This month saw the publication of Out of the Vinyl Deeps, an anthology of music writing the late New Yorker critic Ellen Willis. The book also contained tributes to Willis from other women music writers, and resulted in a conference celebrating Willis (and featuring some of the field’s brightest stars) at NYU. Also this year, the Village Voice finally named a woman to head up their music section, for the first time in years, NPR’s online music section now features a woman in a major post. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. So, this seems like a good time to toast some of the most noteworthy women in the field.
Though we salute a good number of writers here, this list is obviously incomplete. There are great writers who are no longer with us (Penny Valentine), who aren’t writing about music now (Barbara Flaska, Stacy McArdle), who write occasionally now (Carla DeSantis, Carola Dibbell, Deborah Frost, Amy Schroeder), who currently cover other parts of the pop spectrum (Kathy Fennessy, Joy Press, Tricia Romano) or whose current music scribing status is unclear (Gerri Hirshey, Mim Udovitch).
And in the end, there are actually hundreds of women music journalists that you should be reading. But this is a start.
Though her background includes writing for NBC-New York and Spin, Anderson’s rightfully best known for her current going-on-three-years stint as Senior Associate Editor at the Village Voice, which also includes the sometimes-thankless-but-vital job as listings editor, not to mention brilliant pieces like her peek into Woody Allen’s music career, including a rare interview with the recluse himself. In addition, she helms the weekly “This Week In Rock History” column for Rolling Stone, and even her brief Voice previews for are informative and fun.
Though she holds the prestigious post as a Princeton professor, specializing in African-American literature and teaching courses such as “Like a Rolling Stone: Race, Gender, Rock Music Criticism & Popular Music Culture,” Brooks also has an impressive scribing career — an article for The Nation on Beyoncé, a 33 1/3 series book on Jeff Buckley, an essay on the politics and comedy of legendary dancer/singer Josephine Baker, and an upcoming treatise on women in R&B. We just wanna know why our college profs couldn’t have been as cool as Brooks.
Former zine editor and current member of Columbia University’s ethnomusicology program, Carr made a splash in Gotham, becoming Da Capo’s Series Editor of the Best Music Writing books for the last several years as well as serving as editor for Columbia’s Current Musicology journal. In addition, she recently wrote a book on Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine for 33 1/3 and penned one of the afterwards for the Willis anthology. Carr also co-founded (along with the writer of this article) and administers “girlgroup,” a discussion forum for women music journalists (including many listed here). Also check out her website , which includes her blog, playlists, activities, and photography.