The 60’s were a pivotal time in second-wave feminism and also produced some of the most contagiously catchy and empowering tunes ever. Female music luminaries such as Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Joni Mitchel, Lesley Gore, Dolly Parton, Nancy Sinatra, Etta James, Carole King, and many more changed the perception of popular music, each offering a unique style and talent, altering the depiction of women in the industry forever.
Here are some of the timeless classics that helped build the foundations and further the women’s movement that are still just as fiercely fabulous and relevant today.
“You Don’t Own Me” – Lesley Gore (1963)
A breakthrough singer with her hit “It’s My Party,” Lesley Gore was a feminist pop star. Her song, “You Don’t Own Me” depicts a story of defiance and strength, as she stands up for herself against a seemingly possessive boyfriend.
Don’t tell me what to do,
And don’t tell me what to say.
And please, when I go out with you.
Don’t put me on display, ’cause.
You don’t own me, don’t try to change me in any way,
You don’t own me, don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay.
Gore, who was 17 at the time of the song’s recording, was and still is an inspiration for women and girls everywhere, reaffirming their agency and defying patriarchy. Plus, the song is perfect for you and your lady friends to jam out to and show everyone who is boss (cue The First Wives Club re-enactment!).
“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” – Nancy Sinatra (1966)
Daughter of Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra showed everyone that she was a force to be reckoned with the release of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.’” The song taught ladies all over the world to embrace their power (and their fashionable shoe choices) and say a big goodbye to men who don’t respect that. As the chorus goes:
These boots are made for walking,
And that’s just what they’ll do.
One of these days these boots
Are gonna walk all over you.
Put on your favorite outfit while listening out to this song and you will feel sexy and self-empowered for sure. “Are you ready, boots? Start walking!”
“Women Is Losers” – Janis Joplin (1967)
The lesser known of the songs on this list and Joplin’s work, “Women Is Losers”, expresses suppressive gender dynamics from power to success. In Joplin’s eccentric and expressive voice, she demonstrates the struggle for women overcoming stereotypes and the hurdles of a male-centric world as she sings:
Women is losers,
Women is losers, oh,
Say honey women is losers.
Well, I know you must try, Lord,
Men almost seem to end up on top.
“Women Is Losers” still rings true to modern day sexism and the belief that women must be “lady-like,” especially in relationships, when it is far more acceptable for men to act as they please without the same judgment that women may receive for the same behavior.
Joplin, who is one of the most respected women rock artists of all time, wanted love but also wanted to be free, which is the crux of her music. While Joplin doesn’t offer an answer to why this it is so hard to be both powerful and romantic, “Women Is Loser” is an important record to take note of.
“Respect”- Aretha Franklin (1967)
A prominent civil rights and women’s rights soundtrack, “Respect” has been considered the voice of a marginalized generation and one of the most influential records of all-time. “Respect” not only asserted Aretha’s immense vocal power and talent as the “The Queen of Soul”, but also helped millions of women find the confidence to stand up for themselves and embrace their influence, sexually and politically. As Franklin spells it out:
Find out what it means to me.
Take care, TCB.
“Respect” was a call-to-action for equal treatment and independence that captured everyone’s attention in addition to being masterfully crafted piece of art. “Respect” speaks to the barriers we are still fighting to tear down around inequality, and for that alone we should all take a close listen.
BONUS SONG FROM THE 70’S: “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor (1978)
Take a listen: These ageless icons and the revolutionary feminist anthems they produced are guaranteed to unleash some serious girl power!
Cover image courtesy of Legacy Recordings.