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Different Eras, Same Result: These Women Can Rock

October 14, 2000|RANDY LEWIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Back in rock 'n' roll's dim, dark past, "girls and guitars" were as commonplace as fish on bicycles.

Just how long ago and far away that time now seems was evident Thursday at "Women Rock! Girls & Guitars," a concert taped at the Wiltern Theatre for airing Oct. 22 as a two-hour TV special on Lifetime, part of the cable channel's ongoing breast cancer awareness efforts.

Besides disseminating information on breast cancer and raising funds for two organizations leading the fight against it, the idea was to demonstrate that high-powered benefit concerts--especially those that also pack a musical punch--aren't limited to the guys, or even to coed congregations.

In their time on stage, Sheryl Crow, Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson, Cyndi Lauper, Melissa Etheridge, Amy Grant and Wynonna left no question that rock they can. (R&B trio Destiny's Child even hotfooted it over to join the show after opening for Christina Aguilera at the Universal Amphitheatre.) In the evening's most expressionistic vocal exhibitions from Etheridge and Ann Wilson, it even appeared as if "Women Shred!" might have been a better title.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 16, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong identification--A photo caption in Saturday's Calendar transposed the identifications of Nancy and Ann Wilson. Nancy Wilson was on the right; Ann Wilson was in the center.

The camaraderie and bonding across age, musical genre and racial lines matched the most scintillating performances, such as Crow, Etheridge and the Wilsons thundering through the Heart staple "Barracuda," and the all-hands-on-deck finale for an ebullient, reggae spin on Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."

The night's spiritual heart--no pun necessary--was the Wilson sisters. Fueled by Nancy's scorching electric guitar work and Ann's full-throttle vocals, Heart's music in the '70s--when hard rock was still a male domain--showed that a Y chromosome was no prerequisite for rock with muscle, attitude or decibels. They also opened the door for Etheridge, Crow and other women who have subsequently plugged in and let loose.

Perhaps the most somber and touching moment was Lauper's performance of "Maybe I'm Amazed," the love song Paul McCartney recorded in 1970 for his wife, Linda, whose decision to go public with her battle against breast cancer before her death in 1998 put a highly visible face on the issue.

"I can't believe we pulled it off," an exhausted but clearly delighted Lauper said after the show. "We had our own little jug band. And Ann Wilson doing 'Barracuda'--ahhh, that was just screaming. . . . This [a women-centered rock show] doesn't happen very often, but if this is successful, it's going to be happening a lot more."

A few hours before show time, Grant said, "I don't know what everybody else's [reason for participating] was, but my whole life until I got married was centered around women, because all the men in my family died, except my dad. So any time there's going to be a fun estrogen-hang, I want to be there."

There's also a fund-raising aspect by way of jewelry being offered for sale through Lifetime, Marie Claire magazine and Hard Rock Cafe stores to generate money for the Washington-based National Breast Cancer Coalition and the New York-based National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations. In addition to working with NBCC and NABCO, Lifetime has partnered with Marie Claire in a drive for 1 million signatures to forward next year to the president and Congress. The generalized message of those pledges is that elected officials need to do more in the fight against breast cancer.

"There's a lot of information out there regarding breast cancer awareness and we're hearing a lot of feel-good messages, but the reality is more people are getting breast cancer," says Mary Dixon, Lifetime's vice president of public affairs (and a breast cancer survivor). She cited statistics showing that one in eight women is found to have breast cancer each year, compared to one in 14 in the 1960s. "This is not the time to say that enough has been done."

* "Women Rock! Girls & Guitars" airs Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.

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