FORGOTTEN MUSIC #92: ROLLING STONE PRESENTS FEMALE SINGER-SONGWRITERS


Back in 2001, Rhino Records issued a series of Rolling Stone Presents CDs. This Rolling Stone Presents Female Singer-Songwriters has two obvious gaps: no Joni Mitchell and no Carole King. However, the choices made for this CD include variety at the very least.

Joan Baez singing “Diamonds and Rust” brought back a lot of memories and a few regrets. I always thought Joan Baez–with her great talent–could have been a bigger star. The same goes for “Poetry Man” by Phoebe Snow, a singer who sacrificed her career to take care of her brain-damaged daughter. Buffy Sainte Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You to Go” displays her strengths. Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” captures teenage angst. “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush may be my favorite track on this CD. Melanie, who is nearly forgotten now, reminds us why she dominated the Top 10 back in 1970. Bonnie Rait, Carly Simon, and the McGarrigle sisters sing heart-felt songs. The big factor in listening to this music is nostalgia. Do you remember these songs and artists? Do you have a favorite female singer-songwriter? GRADE: B+
TRACK LIST:
1. Wedding Bell Blues — Laura Nyro 2:54
2. Poetry Man — Phoebe Snow 4:36
3. Diamonds & Rust — Joan Baez 4:42
4. At Seventeen — Janis Ian 4:43
5. Nothing Seems to Matter — Bonnie Raitt 4:05
6. Heart Like a Wheel — Kate & Anna McGarrigle 3:04
7. Boys in the Trees — Carly Simon 3:14
8. Until It’s Time for You to Go — Buffy Sainte-Marie 2:28
9. Wuthering Heights — Kate Bush 4:29
10. What Have They Done to My Song Ma — Melanie Safka 4:03

34 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN MUSIC #92: ROLLING STONE PRESENTS FEMALE SINGER-SONGWRITERS

  1. wolf

    The selection of songs seems a bit strange to me and of course the fact that Carole King is missing – her “Tapestry” ran on my tape recorder so often and I wasn’t the only fan obviously.
    Then of course Joan Baez and Carly Simon – but again, a strange selection of songs.
    Why not “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word” (OK, that was written by Dylan) and “You’re so vain”?

    Reply
      1. Todd Mason

        “You’re So Vain” would almost certainly be the most expensive Simon song to license, as well…another strike, along with overfamiliarity, against its inclusion there…

      2. george Post author

        Todd, you’re right. “You’re So Vain” might be Simon’s best song. Pricey for a compilation CD.

  2. Jeff Smith

    There are always omissions on these sort of things due to rights issues. There are also omissions here due to the stupid 10-song limit so many of these cheap sets stick to (making collections of early songs less than half an hour long — this one is less than 40 minutes).

    I like all these singers, but for me #1 is the McGarrigles. I love their albums, and their whole extended family. Kate’s son Rufus Wainwright is the most talented of the whole group. Since his father Loudon also married Suzzy Roche and had a child with her, I consider the Wainwright/McGarrigle/Roche clan one big messy part of my music collection.

    #2 on my list would be Carly Simon. For me, her first three or four albums are sublime, and I like enough of the later stuff to keep her showing up in my CD player.

    Wolf: “Boys in the Trees” is not my favorite by Carly Simon, but it a very good song. “Diamonds and Rust” is Joan Baez at the top of her game.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I’m with you on the Wainwright/McGarrigle/Roche clan. Messy, but super-talented! Carly Simon–like Linda Ronstadt–somehow lost most of her money and is living in reduced circumstances.

      Reply
  3. Steve Oerkfitz

    Would have liked to see something by Patti Smith.. Not a big fan of Janis Ian, Phoebe Snow or Melanie.

    Reply
      1. Todd Mason

        Melanie is very much a song by song sort of person…some of them are by me atrociously cute, but “Lay Down” is good and “Look What They’ve Done…” is great. Pity about her involvement with the Captain’s favorite cult. But if any song indicates how that might’ve come about, it’s “Song”…

  4. Michael Padgett

    There are three omissions so shocking as to render the entire list a joke. You nailed two of them–Mitchell and King–and Steve got the third–Patti Smith. I’d say that these three are more important than any of the ones who ARE on the list.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Michael, I’m glad ROLLING STONE and RHINO RECORDS celebrated female singer-songwriters, but this CD presents a very limited group.

      Reply
  5. Deb

    Melanie is still going strong—still a hippie/earth mother type. She was supposed to appear at (the now-cancelled) Woodstock 50. My favorite Melanie song is “Lay Down Candles in the Rain” which she sang with the Edwin Hawkins Singers and was about her experiences at the original Woodstock.

    I agree that the absence of Carole or Joni makes it difficult to consider this CD conclusive. If they were going to include Kate Bush (who I like but who is much better known on the other side of the pond), I wish they’d have used her best-known and imho best song, “Running Up That Hill.” Love it!

    But I’m really glad they included a Laura Nyro song. She wrote a number of songs that were made popular by other artists: “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stone Soul Picnic,” “Eli’s Coming,” “Stoney End,” “And When I Die,” the list goes on. She died quite young and never had much success as a singer rather than a songwriter.

    Reply
    1. wolf

      I have to admit that I was a big fan of Melanie, especially after her appearance at Woodstock where btw She was one of only three solo women[11] who performed at the Woodstock Festival
      That indicates that women singers/songwriter/musicians in general didn’t have it easy in those days – has this really changed?
      Totally OT – one of my fondest memories:
      My wife and I of course bought the Woodstock DVD andwatched it several times.
      When in spring 2009 we returned from Niagara Falls to NYC, not using the interstate but smaller roads through the forests I suddenly saw a sign:
      Bethel
      and then realised that this was the place of Woodstock. So of course we went there – what a feeling to stand on the grass where all this happend40 years ago!

      Reply
      1. george Post author

        Wolf, I was tempted to go to Woodstock. But other events–a girl friend, a summer job, etc.–intervened. Plus, I hate camping out.

    1. george Post author

      Dan, Baez is legendary, but she never had the financial success worthy of her talent. Baez did a lot of charity work and donated to worthy causes. But I hope she doesn’t end up struggling like Carly Simon and Linda Ronstadt and so many other artists whose money evaporated.

      Reply
  6. Jeff Meyerson

    I’m with Deb on Laura Nyro. I bought a Greatest Hits CD a year or two ago and she wrote an amazing number of hits (mostly hits for other people). And if you listen to them, the hit versions usually followed her original arrangements closely. I love Bonnie Raitt, but more for other people’s songs. Carole King is the obvious #1 omission, and Joni Mitchell of course.

    And I do want to put in a word for Phoebe Snow. I was not a fan of her when she was young, but we saw her a couple of times with The Dukes of September (Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs) and she was great. She did terrific covers of “Knock on Wood” and “At Last.”

    Reply
    1. Deb

      Phoebe also did a duet with Paul Simon called, “Gone At Last” which I really liked. You’re right—she really didn’t pursue her career after her special-needs daughter was born. I don’t think the dad was in the picture. And, iirc, her daughter died not long before Phoebe did.

      Reply
    1. george Post author

      Beth, good question. For some strange reason ROLLING STONE and RHINO RECORDS weren’t able to include two of the biggest (and best!) female singer-songwriters.

      Reply

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