by Lydia Baxter
“We were poor but we had love. That’s the one thing that Daddy made sure of,” sang Loretta Lynn in her most famous song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” For the most influential female singer-songwriters of all time — including Lynn along with artists like Joni Mitchell, June Carter-Cash, Dolly Parton, and countless others, music not only transformed their lives, their music was their lives. These women sang about experiences that American women had on an everyday basis, or as Lynn once said, “Singin’ it like the women lived it.”
Guitar Girls celebrates the music and lives of America’s top female gospel, rock, folk, and country musicians.
“We are focusing on the journey of the guitar girl,” explained Director Catherine Randazzo. “Every song had a reason to be written and the songs were tales of their lives from their humble upbringing – essentially how music made them, and in turn, they made music. We have stories of love, family, divorce, the circle of life, and some to even choke you up or make you giggle.”
Their songs told stories that were rarely heard before, sometimes tackling challenging topics — like infidelity, poverty, and abuse — in a stare-you-down, authentic kind of way.
For many of the artists highlighted in Guitar Girls, life was not easy. Many started from humble beginnings, and as a result of their music, were able to escape poverty. Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton both recorded songs that spoke about being raised in impoverished but loving families. Several of Parton’s early songs, including “Coat of Many Colors” and “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad),” talk about what it was like for her to go to bed hungry and wear clothing made out of rags.
Along with Lynn and Parton, guitar girls Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell were also musical storytellers whose songs painted pictures of heartbreak, adventure, and an ever-changing world.
Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” tells the story of what freedom tastes like when you’re traveling around the country with the one you love and there’s nothing left to lose. In “Big Yellow Taxi,” Mitchell comments on the irony of life, asking, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
With honest, straightforward lyrics, these Guitar Girls don’t beat around the bush. Country songwriters tell the truth. If they feel like killing their friend’s abusive boyfriend, which The Dixie Chicks sing about in “Goodbye Earl,” then they will write about it and not feel guilty because these guitar girls are going to right a wrong.
With hits like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Jolene,” and “Big Yellow Taxi,” along with some more contemporary tracks, Guitar Girls, a tribute to female singer-songwriters, will play in FST’s Goldstein Theatre beginning November 28. Subscriptions and single tickets are available online or by calling the FST Box Office at 941.366.9000.