My boyfriend gave me the book Girl Groups for Christmas, knowing both of my love of reading music biographies and of the girl groups of the 60s, and it's been really interesting. I'm only about 1/3 into it, but already I'm a little saddened by the repetitiveness of the women's troubles.
Now, mind you, read enough biographies of musicians, especially those working in the 50s and 60s, and there are certain troubles that crop up over and over and over again for men and women. Most of the troubles have to do with money, and not having enough of it. In the 50s and 60s it was particularly bad because performers and song-writers had very little legal protection against greedy studios and labels. (There are a number of legends about how little money Willie Nelson made off songs like "Family Bible" and "Crazy", for instance.)
But the stories of women in girl groups who had career troubles or out-and-out quit are particularly repetitive. The three main ones are 1) Got married and had to dedicate life to husband (in one case, a girl quit because her steady boyfriend required more attention), 2) Got pregnant and had to quit to raise children, 3) Phil Spector's controlling behavior drove them off. (Surprisingly often, considering that on the whole, Spector produced for less girl groups than you might think.)
It made me really reflect on stuff. My initial reaction was that thank god the 60s are over and women are not obliged in the same way to choose between family and career. And thank god that sexist pigs like Spector are reined in somewhat. (It's my personal opinion that Spector liked to employ a lot of women not just because he liked their voices better, but also because he thought they were easier to control. Remember, this is the man that thought it would be a gas to produce "He Hit Me", which was written by a woman, believe it or not.) But then I thought about it harder.
Are women musicians really much better off than they were? On one hand, I think a lot less women would just up and quit playing because they are getting married. But on the other hand, you see less women on stage than you would have during the girl group craze of the 60s, though that's a situation that is gradually improving. Why don't more women pursue careers in music?
I have my suspicions that in a weird way, that female musicians are encouraged like men are to see themselves as professionals nowadays means that more girls are probably squelched when they start showing talent at a younger age. A parent of a daughter who is taking to singing and playing the newest kinds of music is probably going to do all the worrying on their daughter's behalf that the daughter herself could be counted on to do in the past: What will this do to her chances of marriage? Motherhood? Who will marry a woman who tours the country for months out of the year? In the 60s, it wasn't a worry because the musician would just stop upon marriage. But now, no one would expect that. So better to squelch her before she blossoms.
Not that people think it through like that. But different sets of expectations on female musicians has probably resulted in more girls rejecting or being pushed to reject that career in the beginning. Just a theory, though. Thoughts?