The Punk Singer

Sini Anderson, USA, 2013

Someone once told Kathleen Hanna to ditch spoken word and form a band if she wanted to be heard. So she did! Following in the footsteps of The Slits and X-Ray Spex, she created feminist punk band Bikini Kill.

It was the late 80s/early 90s, and looking back now it was quite an unenlightened time in terms of gender equality. Especially at punk gigs, it seems, where being at the front of the audience was a dangerous experience for female fans. (Shame, because original late 70s/early 80s punk, in the UK at least, was very open to gender equality.) Kathleen had to ask the guys to step back and let’s the girls join in unthreatened.

She comes across as a strident, forthright woman, not afraid to speak out and tell it like it is. And thank goodness for people like her, or social change would never happen.

The film also touches on her experience trying to recover from late stage Lyme disease, an infection that had become chronic and was difficult to shift. I really felt her pain. Especially having a physical thing that totally debilitates you inside but you look fine on the outside…

Anyway, it was true. To really be heard she had to ditch the performance poetry and write songs. Song lyrics are the poetry of our epoch, reaching a wide audience and using select words in short rhythmic forms to paint an image or tell us something about ourselves, which is why Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature makes complete sense. Here is some of my favourite lyric poetry at the moment:

“If you can feel what I feel then it’s a musical masterpiece / Hear what I’m dealing with then that’s cool at least / What’s running through my mind comes through in my walk / True feelings are shown from the way that I talk

I give thanks for inspiration / It guides my mind along the way.”

Beastie Boys, Pass The Mic

(Oh so many Beastie Boys lyrics to choose from… And I’ve only recently really listened to them!)

“Stepping through brilliant shades / All the color you bring

It’s like living in the middle of the ocean / No future, no past / And everything that’s good about now / Might just glide right past”

Beth Orton, Central Reservation

(When you know the song, it’s hard to read them without the melody.)

“I am just a poor boy / Though my story’s seldom told / I have squandered my resistance / For a pocketful of mumbles / Such are promises.”

Simon & Garfunkel, The Boxer

(Paul Simon is a lyrical genius. And so is Evan Dando.)

“Got me watching your eyes watching things go by outside / Out the window of a train / Easy sipping them just seeing it fly left to right / Pour the milk and I’ll say when.”

Lemonheads, Hannah & Gabi

(And one of the benefits of being bilingual is…)

“Dale todo lo que tengas / Dentro de tu corazón tan triste / Quiere ser tu luz del día / Y tu descontrol en la noche mas fría / Y te diría mi amor, quédate conmigo.”

Pablo Alborán, La Escalera

(Spanish is so beautiful set to music. I don’t like most of Alborán’s stuff, but this song has great words!)

“Tienes en los ojos girasoles / Y cuando me miras soy la estrella que más brilla.”

Rozalen, Girasoles

(Ay, mi corazon. The whole of the next song is a poetic joy – strong imagery with simple words.)

“Esta noche tan oscura / Con sus sombras tan tranquilos / Y el viento me sige cantando / Este humilde cancion.”

Los Lobos, La Pistola y El Corazon

(I could go on. Even Despacito has beautiful lyrics.)

Words. I love ’em. Such infinite variety!

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