‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music (Hardback) book cover

‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music

By Abigail Gardner

Edited by Ros Jennings

© 2012 – Routledge

186 pages

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About the Book

For female pop stars, whose star bodies and star performances are undisputedly the objects of a sexualized external gaze, the process of ageing in public poses particular challenges. Taking a broadly feminist perspective, 'Rock On': women, ageing and popular music shifts popular music studies in a new direction. Focussing on British, American and Latina women performers and ageing, the collection investigates the cultural work performed by artists such as Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark, Madonna, Celia Cruz, Grace Jones and Courtney Love. The study crosses generations of performers and audiences enabling an examination of changing socio-historical contexts and an exploration of the relationships at play between performance strategies, star persona and the popular music press. For instance, the strategies employed by Madonna and Grace Jones to engage with the processes and issues related to public ageing are not the same as those employed by Courtney Love or Celia Cruz. The essays in this insightful collection reflect on the ways that artists and fans destabilise both the linear trajectories and the compelling weight of expectations regarding ageing by employing different modalities of resistance through persona re-invention, nostalgia, postmodern intertextuality and even early death as the ultimate denial of age.


'… female performers are often marginalised in music literature and this is especially so of older female performers. Academic work which highlights their lives and experiences is vital.' The F-Word 'Timely and pertinent, the collection successfully opens up a space where the ageing female body traverses musical discourses of identity and subjectivity, always and already marked by gender, sexuality and ethnicity'. Popular Music

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: women, ageing and popular music, Ros Jennings and Abigail Gardner; Part I 'Renewal, Recycling and Renegotiation': Madonna: like a crone, Lucy O’Brien; It’s all just a little bit of history repeating: pop-stars, audiences, performance and ageing - exploring the performance strategies of Shirley Bassey and Petula Clark, Ros Jennings; Long live the Queen!: Celia Cruz’s longevity as a counterpoint of tradition and change, Delia Poey; Framing Grace: shock and awe at the ageless black body, Abigail Gardner. Part II 'It’s Not Over…': Mom rock? Media representations of ’mothers who rock’, Norma Coates; 27 for ever: Kristen Pfaff and the coverage of death as the re-presentation of a gendered musical life, Paula Hearsum; ’I’d stage-dive, but I’m far too elderly’: Courtney Love and expectations of femininity and ageing, Catherine Strong; Rebel without a pause: the continuity of controversy in Madonna’s contemporary music videos, Paul Watson and Diane Railton; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Rock