The Sounds of Women’s History Month #1

March 9, 2009

42-17814590In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating overlooked and lesser known female musical artists from around the world. Though they may not be household names, in many cases they served as key influences on other artists who went on to be critical and commercial sensations. Their influence can still be felt strongly in the much of the music we listen to today, and many of them have fans and admirers from among today’s current music scene. In other words, these are artist’s artists—the ones in your favorite musicians’ personal record collections. So hunt them down, check them out, and let them show you why their names and their music should be on your lips. And while you’re at it, drop us a comment and let us know some of your favorite female musicians.




Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978)



Malvina Reynolds was born in 1900 to Jewish socialist immigrant parents living in San Francisco. Despite being refused a high school diploma (because of  her parents’ opposition to U.S. involvement in WWI) she went on to earn a BA, MA, and Ph.D. Due to the prejudices of the times she was unable to find work as a college professor, so she went to work as a social worker and as a columnist for the communist newspaper the People’s World. During World War II she worked on the assembly line at a bomb factory. In the late 1940s she met Pete Seeger and other folk singers and was inspired to start writing her own songs. She began to gain some recognition as a writer when her songs were recorded by Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger and other popular performers of the day. Reynolds is best known for the song “Little Boxes,” with which Seeger had a hit single in 1964. Perhaps her most important work, however, was the songs she wrote in support of peace protesters, labor strikers, and environmental activists. Later in her life and career she also wrote some children’s songs and contributed music to Sesame Street. She has gained modest recognition recently as her “Little Boxes” was chosen as the theme song for the television show Weeds. It has since been covered by Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Linkin Park, Devendra Banhart, Regina Spektor, and others. Malvina Reynolds died in 1978.


Watch Malvina Reynolds performing her song “No Hole in My Head” with Pete Seeger and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot below.


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