Female Bassists – Are They Getting Their Due?

Suzi Quatro opened the doors for a long, impressive list of women players

By Jon Liebman
Week of June 29, 2020

From the beginning, most rockers have traditionally been men. If there was a female member of the band, it was often assumed she was the singer.

When Suzi Quatro hit the music scene in the early ‘70s, slinging a Fender Precision bass and exuding an “I mean business” attitude (and don’t forget playing Leather Tuscadero, on TV’s Happy Days!), people weren’t quite sure what to do. Suzi, our featured bassist in this week’s interview, spoke with FBPO’s Gary Graff about the much-anticipated release of the documentary film, Suzi Q, which showcases Quatro’s life and career.

In this day and age, whatever shock factor that may have resulted from seeing a female bassist – especially one who plays with a lot of guts – may have all but dissipated. Still what must life have been like a few generations ago when the concept was still a novelty?

Difficult as it may have been in the ‘60s and ‘70s for a female to be taken seriously in a rock band in a role other than singer, Suzi, never deterred, embraced that scene. She happened to become a bass player because she “didn’t speak up quick enough,” when the instruments for her first all-girl band were being chosen. “I said, ‘Okay.’ I didn’t mind.”

With Suzi, fear of not being accepted by other musicians, or even by the public, was never a concern. “I just wanted to be in a band,” she says. “I didn’t give a shit if it was an all-girl band. That was never my focus.”

Nowadays, there’s a seemingly never-ending list of female instrumentalists who have gained prominence in the rock, jazz, funk and other scenes. In the bass world alone, names like Tina Weymouth, Tracy Wormworth, Melissa Auf der Maur are well known. And we can’t forget Rhonda Smith, Esperanza Spalding, Nik West, Ida Nielsen, Gail Ann Dorsey, Tal Wilkenfeld, Divinity Roxx, and so many others.

Thanks, Suzi, for opening up the doors all those who’ve followed, and for proving that music doesn’t care if it’s being played by a guy or a girl.

“I don’t do gender,” Suzi says. “Never have. To this day, I don’t think of myself as a female musician. I am a musician.”

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out Gary’s interview with Suzi here.

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