While every year should be the year of the woman, it’s only been since the recent tipping point when words like “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” have become a part of everyday dialogue. When Laura Whitmore (founder of WiMN) first dreamed up the She Rocks Awards, it was because as a writer in the music industry, she saw a need to bring women together and give them a platform where they can use their voices.
Now, in its sixth year, the She Rocks Awards has become part of the very fabric of The NAMM Show. The event ushers in music icons and honors female leaders who make a difference, not only in the music industry but who also strive to make the world a better place.
“It’s just so gratifying to see how much it’s grown and how much it means to people,” Whitmore told AXS at the awards show. “To me, it’s not about the lights and cameras, it’s about how honestly moved and changed people are from being a part of the event, part of the organization.”
Both Whitmore and KROQ’s Kat Corbett hosted the Jan. 26 events at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Corbett, one of L.A.’s longtime leading radio voices, says that for women in the industry, it’s always been a battle. Coming up, she didn’t have a lot of female heroes who were doing what she did. The She Rocks Awards helps change that landscape and gives women an opportunity to nurture the next generation. “I think this is an event that really signifies that shift in us, learning that you can support each other, it’s not competition. You can still achieve what you want to do without tearing each other down,” Corbett expressed.
Shirley Manson of Garbage is an artist who embodies that exact message. Her upcoming performance at GIRLSCHOOL, a female-led music and ideas festival founded by Anna Bulbrook, celebrates and connects women-identified artists, leaders and voices. “The statistics today are still shocking,” Manson says. “I think they say 16 percent of women are involved in music at some level but it’s much lower than that, to be honest. The She Rocks Awards is a great opportunity and a rare moment where women are being recognized for their contribution. So many women have been written out of history and it’s all going to stop. Women are going to be written back in.”
“I think an event like this is really needed,” Cindy Wilson said on the red carpet. She and her B-52s counterpart, Kate Pierson, who are celebrating the 40th anniversary of making music together, were there being honored with the Vanguard Award. “This is a really special program to have all these great women,” Pierson added. “Sometimes the women in rock can feel like, ‘why do we have to be in this category,’ but I think now more than ever it’s important that women have solidarity.”
Melissa Etheridge, who was accompanied by her wife, Linda, was also on hand to receive the Icon Award. “You know, it’s funny. I would be doing this whether I was being honored at She Rocks or if I never made a record,” Etheridge told AXS about her career. “I would still be singing. It’s not a question of persevering, its’ a question of, you do something, you love it. When other people happen to love it all of a sudden it’s a really great thing that you can do for the rest of your life.”
Celebrating the pioneering all-female American rock band, Fanny, was another huge milestone of the night. Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers’ guitarist, Skunk Baxter, was there to support the band as they took home this year’s Inspire Award. “I’m chromosomally agnostic when it comes to music and when I first heard this band, when they opened for us [Steely Dan], I was blown away,” he said. “They really were cutting edge. Nobody was interested in female bands. I mean you had The Ronettes, but what about ladies who are playing and really laying it down? So, when they asked me if I would present the award to them this evening, I jumped at it, because it’s about time.”
Exene Cervenka of the punk band X, was another long overdue award-winner who was honored on Friday night. "It was all women and men mixed together, nobody cared what you were,” Cervenka said about getting her start in music. “We didn’t think about it. It was just people. But it’s nice that now, all these years later, to pick people out and honor people. To have a women’s night is great.”
Inside the event, Cervenka was given the Dreaming Out Loud Award. Other honorees included: Amberly Crouse-Knox (Senior Director of Creative and Business Development, BMG Production Music), Candace Stewart (Studio Manager, EastWest Studios in Hollywood), Dawn Birr (Channel Manager for the Americas, Sennheiser Business Solutions), Fabi Reyna (Founder and Editor of She Shreds Magazine), Vanessa Mering (Marketing Manager, HARMAN Professional), Kristy Porter (Guitar Center’s Director of Merchandising, General Accessories and Media) and Karla Redding-Andrews, (Executive Director for The Otis Redding Foundation).
Although Pat Benatar was unable to attend at the last minute, Whitmore shared her inspired words with the crowd, as she proudly accepted the Legend Award on her behalf.
Each award winner's music was performed by artists including: The Command Sisters, Laura Clapp, Olivia Rox, Sabrina Lentini, Alyeska, Sarah Longfield, Jenna Paone, and, of course, the incredible house band, Rock Sugah.
The grand finale welcomed most of the 2018 She Rocks Award honorees to the stage, joining together to sing “Respect,” a song written by Otis Redding. Redding’s daughter, Karla, was among the evening’s attendees being celebrated. “Just to be here, to stand in the footsteps of these ladies who have done so much with their music careers and for the industry is unbelievable,” she said of the night.
You can find out more about the She Rocks Awards by heading over to the website. For more NAMM Show news, keep it on AXS.