Claremore Daily Progress

April 25, 2011

STAFF COLUMN: The heart of a woman beats in a rock n’ roll song

Joy Hampton
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE — Growing up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s was a dynamic time for women and girls.

We were a generation who would witness great change without, through emerging technology, and within, through the widening scope of awareness of what a woman can do and become.

I oughtta know. I lived through it.

There, I’ve done it, admitted my age.

Admitted that the idea of computers was new when I was in high school. Admitted that the first computer I ever saw filled an entire room.

Today, I hold one in the palm of my hand.

The advent of pushbutton dials and cordless receivers on our phones seemed a big deal at one time.

I admit it — I had a pink princess phone in my bedroom. I owned vinyl records and, briefly, 8-track tapes.

But those changes are nothing compared to what went on within the hearts of women across the nation during those decades.

In Oklahoma, we’re known to be a little behind the curve on certain social movements. I was born a little too late to protest or really even understand the Vietnam war. I heard tales of women libbers but the whole burning your bra thing didn’t mean much to me.

After all, I had waited rather impatiently to hit puberty and cross all of those lines girls want to cross to prove they are grown up women.

I DID wear hip hugger blue jeans with bell bottoms, go barefoot  a lot, and embroidered flowers on my denim jackets. Floppy hats and vests and crocheted purses were cool.

After the ‘70s ended, I lived through the big hair and spandex of the ‘80s, but somehow, I never REALLY left the ‘70s, as anyone who’s taken a peak in my closet can attest.

It was the era that formed who I was, and who I have become.

It was the era of rock, real rock, classic rock, the kind of hard rolling rhythms and lyrics our parents thought would send us to the devil— and sometimes they did.

As a young woman growing up in Oklahoma, I wanted the best of both worlds. I wanted to be pretty and feminine and loved... or at least well-liked.... by boys.

I also wanted to be strong and independent and a little bit willful, a wild child with a daring nature. I wanted to challenge life, and I didn’t know how.

I look back at those days now and am often amazed at how adrift I was at times, trapped between social mores of the past and future with no idea of how to proceed.

People said I could be anything, but I didn’t dare or dared in all the worst of ways.

But that’s another story.

For the women of my generation, the hard rock beat of the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, who still comprise the heart of the band we know as Heart, was a beacon guiding us to the dawning of an era of liberation.

Ann’s voice was a clear bell of feminine sound that was also undeniably strong and unique. There was nobody who sang quite like her. Ann was no gentle Karen Carpenter nor throaty Carly Simon.

Ann was the voice of the band, but Nancy’s riffs and high energy, driving guitar seemed to redefine what it meant to be female, strong and       beautiful.

The Wilson sisters proved girls could ROCK. With the likes of them and Joan Jett, the fairer sex was well-launched into the world of rock and roll.

Men thought they were hot.

Women were moved to the core by their iconic status. The energy of rock’s pulsating beat no long belonged to the boys alone.

The recent Oklahoma concert by Heart at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s musical venue, The Joint,  brought all those memories of my teen and early adult years back.

The Wilson sisters played, and I went a little crazy that night, me and an auditorium full of screaming women. The men were there, too, of course. But for that one night, the boys didn’t matter.

It was our night. It was all about us girls.

We were moved to ecstatic frenzy.

“I love you Nancy,” screamed one woman who may, or may not have been, gay.

And I screamed it, too. Because we were talking about something more than the Wilson sisters’ still smoking sexuality and stage presence.

We were talking about learning to love ourselves.

My generation and younger generations of women were rockin’ down as these founding divas played a collection of rock hits and pulsating love songs that took us back in time.

Heart and others like them empowered us, then and today. They gave us a voice when the average girl didn’t yet know how to sing a song of social liberation.

Those early female rockers were part of the force that has led women to believe we have the right to claim it all, have it all, be it all, even if the intervening years have taught us that balance and moderation is the key to maintaining it all...

As the pendulum swings back and forth through the decades, we have learned there is a time to be soft, and there is a time to be heard.

The female rockers of the ‘70’s and early ‘80s were heard, and judging by the response to Heart’s ongoing tour, it’s a message that beats a rhythm in the hearts of America’s women still today.