Lesbian Music – On the (Independent!) Radio

NOTE: These paragraphs are taken from a larger piece on Lesbian “Knowledge Economy” — next post.

I’ve been away from writing for several months as I’m consumed with other projects (some writing, some not). One of them is the posting of archival cassettes to my Lesbian Power Authority Media posts. These paragraphs explain in more detail how those shows came about…

Community Radio is a powerful tool and I truly miss it — there is no community radio here in Rhode Island (national/state public radio is just not the same).

 

Excerpt from Lesbian “Knowledge Economy”

Community Radio

Perhaps my proudest achievement as a purveyor of lesbian culture occurred during the eight years I hosted the Lesbian Power Authority (1994- 2002) – a weekly 90-minute Sunday evening radio program on KFAI community radio in the Twin Cities. Each week I opened the show by playing our theme song – Lesbian Power Authority by Alix Dobkin. As long as I avoided the seven deadly swear words banned by the FCC, I had full license to do play and say whatever I wanted during those minutes. I had only one self-imposed requirement: all music, reading, news, guest interviews, commentary, and special features had to be by, for, and about lesbians. For full 90-minutes each week, listeners would hear only women’s voices and learn about the many lesbians events happening around town and the country, and news about current pressing lesbian issues.

My lesbian-only requirement provided focus but not narrowness! Each week I was able to introduce a new album or musician, a new book or author. I had fun searching through the radio station’s library or Ladyslipper catalog and Hot Wire magazine to discover new or returning lesbian musicians and bands. I’d scour the fine print on album covers or liner notes for the hints about whether the artist might be lesbian. It also helped that I worked at Amazon in those days, so I could access demo copies of new CDs. I purchased what I could and begged and borrowed the rest. Sometimes I just couldn’t know for sure if the musician or band was a lesbian, but if the song was strong enough, I’d play it. This was especially challenging as I tried to broaden to international music.

Over time, and to avoid over-playing my favorites, I’d organize the show around a theme. Spirituality or Halloween, environmental action, songs of protest, health, love, romance, break -up, sports, gardening, internationals women’s day, national coming out day, black history month, gay history month, jazz bands, dance music, etc. etc. I was able to play music from many different genres and styles – as long as it featured lesbian artists and themes. The show also included interviews from visiting lesbian authors or movement makers. For one international women’s day, I also created a documentary called “A Labor of Love” tracing the herstory of the feminist publishing movement and including interviews with many of the lesbians integral in developing that movement. In the late 1990s, I realized our music had enough herstory to have some nostalgia and “old-timers” music. One of my favorite themes was to devote a whole show that featured music only from 1975-1985!

I know the show had impact as lesbians I met in the store or around town praised the show. One woman sent me a picture of a motorcycle she refurbished over months while listening to the show—it kept her connected and motivated. Some women reported listening in bed with a very cozy and pleasant way of falling asleep before beginning another crazy work week. I had a low and soothing radio voice and so the power of being huddled in the dark of night listening to lesbian words and music gave many dykes the strength they needed to keep on for the next week.

Click here to hear some of the archival shows.

Last Show July 14 2002 7

Mev & Matthea “On Air”

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