Vivien Goldman, author of Revenge of the She-Punks in 1981 (Photo Credit: Jean Bernard Sohiez)
Vivien Goldman’s essential punk herstory ‘Revenge of the She-Punks’ explores the crucial relationship between the genre and gender.
A veteran of punk, new wave and reggae since the 1970s, Vivien Goldman is a renowned writer, musician and academic. Goldman was a pioneer in merging punk and new wave with African and Caribbean rhythms, recording with many musicians from reggae legend Prince Far I too Soft Machine co-founder Robert Wyatt. Her solo work includes one of the most notable punk songs ‘Launderette’.
Her musical career began at Island Records in the 1970s where she worked as a public relations officer for artists such as Bob Marley & the Wailer, before entering the world of journalism. Today, Goldman teaches punk, Afrobeat and reggae at New York University and has written previous books on Bob Marley and Afrobeat culture. The book has come at an important time in the history of female musicians and Goldman’s unique and essential experience in the world of female punks is, naturally, brought to the spotlight.
In ‘Revenge of the She-Punks’, Goldman explores four themes regarding what makes punk as an art form so liberating for women: identity, money, love and protest, revealing how “punk’s DIY ethos coincided with women’s necessities”. Through interviews with 43 women, history and her personal experience, the book reads like a music documentary on the genre that defied barriers. Goldman leaps around from musician to musician with her excitement propelling through the pages. Her style is honest, raw, and visceral, writing only possible from someone so dedicated to punk. The list of interviewed female musicians squeezed into 200 pages is rather impressive: from Patti Smith, Kathleen Hanna, Grace Jones to the daughter of punk muse Polystyrene: Celeste Bell-Dos Santos.
Not only does the book serve as an essential primer to the world of female punks, there are also a range of playlists to be explored and savoured. With playlists featuring classic artists such as Blondie, the Raincoats, Polystyrene as well as some incredible up-and-coming bands, there’s a new recommendation for even the most music obsessed. The engaging book shows how Goldman’s passion is unmatched, showing the truth of the music world for women and the influence it has had.
“Revenge here means assembling at least some voices of various waves of women’s Punk from disparate communities and considering their differences and connections”, and Goldman certainly fulfils just that. Being politically charged, she drives us through a whole host of female musicians, including those with a ‘punk persona’ such as Beyoncé as well as most abundantly ‘punkettes’ (women in the punk originating from the 1970s). The language is grippingly chatty, often humorous; while the use of words such as ‘sheroes’, ‘she-punks’, ‘womentors’, along with ‘she-punks’ draws attention to patriarchal language that is so often overlooked.
With her intrinsic style, Goldman’s experience of the punkette empire is inspiring and intoxicating. A must read for anyone interested in punk, the role of gender in music, or just to find some incredible new artists.