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ma rainey :: Blog

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Prove It On Me Blues"

Thursday, January 12: 10 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Ma Rainey's "Prove It On Me Blues" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

The so-called Mother of the Blues, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey was one of the form's most assertive female artists. She was a true pioneer who openly flouted convention and challenged mores on record and the road, performing at barrelhouses, juke joints, dance halls and speakeasies during the 1920s. If "Prove It On Me Blues" were released today, it may carry a parental advisory sticker for its racy content. Penned by Rainey and recorded with her Tub Jug Washboard Band for the Paramount label in 1928, the song recounts a lesbian love affair. Filled with explicit sexual references, it dares listeners to "find proof" of any immorality or illegality. "Prove It On Me Blues" was also deemed an attack on men, though Rainey was bi-sexual. In one verse she defiantly exclaims, "They must've been women, 'cause I don't like no men." Rainey wrote a number of provocative blues songs with frank, liberated lyrics that sang of her experiences  – and sexual liberation was a favored topic. "Prove It On Me Blues" lashed out prophetically against bigotry and male oppression. Rainey and other 1920s black female blues artists decried such hatred and inspired blues-loving rock singers like Janis Joplin to ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

America's Foremothers

Monday, September 12: 11 a.m.
Bessie Smith

"America's Foremothers" is the first installment in a special series that highlights the evolution of women in music by placing their accomplishments, inspirations and influence in the context of the eras that shaped their sounds and messages. 

Between 1920 and 1947, roughly the period covered in the “Foremothers” section of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Women Who Rock exhibit, American women made great strides toward gaining equality while championing basic human rights. Female musicians responded to the liberation evolving around them, forming a collection of voices that melodically – and often defiantly – set the tone that inspired generations of women. Leading the charge were the “Foremothers”: Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson and Mother Maybelle Carter.

Among the suffrage movement's greatest victories was the passing of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. The ensuing decades saw many more developments as women were elected to office, quite literally taking seats of power: state governor (Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming, 1924) and senator (Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas, 1932); and the first female member of the President’s cabinet, Francis Perkins, was appointed Secretary of Labor in 1933. The Women’s Amateur ...


continue Categories: Hall of Fame, Inductee, Exhibit

Women Who Rock spotlight: The Piano That Started it All

Friday, July 8: 11:15 a.m.
Posted by Jim Henke
Lady Gaga's childhood piano.

On the fourth floor of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, there’s an old upright piano. It’s the first artifact you see when you go to the Hall of Fame’s Women Who Rock exhibit. It’s the piano that Lady Gaga played when she was a little girl. Gaga’s father’s parents bought the piano in 1966 for $780. When Gaga was not even a year old, her grandparents gave the piano to her parents. According to Gaga’s mother, “When Stefani started to crawl, she would use the leg of the piano to pull herself up and stand, and in doing so, her fingers would eventually land on the keys.  She would stay there and just keep pressing the keys to hear the sound.  We would then start to hold her up or sit on the bench and let her tinker, you know, things like ‘Chopsticks’ and ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’” Gaga began taking piano lessons when she was four. She wrote her first song when she was five. It was called “Dollar Bills” and was inspired by Pink Floyd’s “Money.” She continued to play this piano until her parents ...


continue Categories: Exhibit, Event
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