Donita Sparks

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Donita Sparks
Donita Sparks in 2015
Donita Sparks in 2015
Background information
Born (1963-04-08) April 8, 1963 (age 58)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
GenresAlternative metal, grunge, alternative rock, punk rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, musician
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1985–present
LabelsEpitaph, Sub Pop, Slash, Man's Ruin, Wax Tadpole, CASH, Blackheart
Associated actsL7, Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments, Lou Man Group

Donita Sparks (born April 8, 1963) is an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter most notable for being the co-founder of the band L7. Sparks also initiated, performed, and released original material with her solo project, the band Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sparks was born on April 8, 1963, in the Hyde Park neighborhood[2] of Chicago, Illinois. One of several sisters, Sparks was raised in Oak Lawn,[2] in a family that regularly participated in political actions.[3] Sparks credits her father for cultivating her sense of rhythm at an early age and her mother with instilling an awareness of equal rights.[4] During high school, Sparks used her older sister's ID to get into clubs, including Club 950, Lucky Number and Neo.[2] Following her graduation from high school in 1981,[2] she attended classes at the Community Film Workshop of Chicago.[4] Sparks worked for a year as a foot messenger for a photo lab, delivering photos in downtown Chicago,[5] prior to moving to Los Angeles at the age of 19.[6]

Career[edit]

Sparks met Suzi Gardner in 1984 and they formed the creative foundation of L7 by 1985.[3] Sparks and Gardner had both worked at LA Weekly, although at separate times, and were active participants in the Art punk DIY scene in the Echo Park/Silver Lake area when they began writing music together.[3] Sparks credited mutual friends at LA Weekly for connecting her to Gardner and stated that the publisher was a cultural hub of performance artists, writers, and musicians including Vaginal Davis and Johnathan Gold on staff at the time.[4][7]

Recognized for subverting and transcending the expectations of performers in the late 80s and early 90s, L7 produced seven original studio albums between 1985 and 2019.[8][9] In a 1993 article for Spin which featured L7 on the magazine's cover, Renée Crist described L7 as "four of the funniest, meanest, strongest, coolest, most pissed-off women I know" and as "wild, rambunctious, spontaneous" with a stage show that "is a wash of buddy love, crowd working, and acrobatics".[10]

In 1994, Sparks appeared in the John Waters film Serial Mom as a musician and performer in the fictitious band "Camel Lips."[6]

Sparks released her debut solo record Transmiticate as Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments in February 2008. The Boston Globe, in a June 2008 review, described Sparks performance as high energy with a commanding stage presence.[11]

In 2008, Sparks and Kristin Hersh co-founded CASH Music (Coalition of Artists and Stakeholders) as a means to self release their own music; the non-profit organization has grown to offer marketing and publishing tools for musicians that are open source.[12]

Sparks's music has been featured in the films Natural Born Killers, Brokeback Mountain, Perks of Being a Wildflower and in the video games Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Rock Band 2.[13]

She is also the drummer for the tribute band, Lou Man Group, a performance homage to Lou Reed and the Blue Man Group.[14][15]

L7 reformed in 2014 and embarked on a reunion tour in 2015.[1][9][16] The documentary L7: Pretend We're Dead, directed by Sarah Price, features original footage and interviews with Donita Sparks and was released November 2016.[17] The film was nominated for a VO5 NME Award for Best Music Film.[18]

Sparks continues to perform live shows with the original line up of L7 and co-wrote two new songs with Suzi Gardner: Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago, 2017 and I Came Back to Bitch, 2018 that were released as singles.[19]

L7's latest full album Scatter the Rats was released on Blackheart Records on May 3, 2019. Sparks gave a number of interviews reflecting on the trajectory of the group and discussing the challenges and triumphs faced over the years by the band.[20] The band resumed a six-week national tour starting on May 10, 2019.[21]

Sparks guitar of choice is the deliberately angular Flying V which she described as looking like "something from the Jetsons."[22]

In March 2019, Sparks appeared as part a panel discussion along with Henry Rollins, Marky Ramone, and John Lydon following a screening for the Epix docuseries Punk.[23] While the conversation became heated between Lydon and Ramone, Sparks maintained her composure and humor, crediting both the Sex Pistols and the Ramones as sources of inspiration in her youth.[23][24]

Rollingstone announced that Sparks was hosting a new show called The Hi-Low Show With Donita Sparks that began streaming every Friday starting in April 2020.[25] The weekly show has been structured to feature performances by Sparks and special musical guests.[25]

Philanthropy[edit]

Sparks and L7 formed Rock for Choice with the Feminist Majority Foundation in 1991, staging numerous concerts benefiting pro-choice organizations featuring some of the biggest bands in the industry including Nirvana and Hole.[26][6]

Notable stage moments[edit]

Donita Sparks playing to the crowd
Sparks onstage with the reformed L7 in 2018

While L7 was performing at the Reading Festival in 1992, their speakers blew out. The crowd became restless and relentlessly threw mud onto the stage, pelting the band. In response, Sparks reached into her pants and threw her tampon back at the crowd, and said "Eat my used tampon, fuckers!" The tampon became known as one of the "most unsanitary pieces of rock memorabilia in history".[27]

Later in 1992, Sparks dropped her pants, appearing bottomless, on live television during an L7 performance on the UK variety show The Word.[28] Of the incident, Sparks later commented that the particular show L7 appeared on already had questionable aspects underway including "a men's bum contest" and a "hidden camera in Oliver Reed's dressing room, showing him intoxicated with his shirt off, which was really fucked up. So I added my contribution to this craziness."[29]

Discography[edit]

L7[edit]

Year Title Label Notes
1988 L7 Epitaph Records Debut album
1990 Smell the Magic Sub Pop Reissued in 1991 with three extra songs
1992 Bricks Are Heavy Slash Records Reached No. 1 on Billboard Heatseekers
1994 Hungry for Stink Slash Records Reached No. 2 on Billboard Heatseekers
1997 The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum Slash Records First album without bassist Jennifer Finch
1998 Live: Omaha to Osaka Man's Ruin Records Live album
1999 Slap-Happy Wax Tadpole Records Studio album
2000 The Slash Years Slash Records Compilation of popular songs from 1992 to 1997
2016 Fast and Frightening Easy Action Records Double album of rarities, covers, and live tracks
2017 Detroit: Live Easy Action Records Recorded live at Clutch Cargo's in Detroit 1990
2019 Scatter the Rats Blackheart Records Full album, original lineup

Viggo Mortensen's Spoken Word[edit]

Year Title Label Notes
1999 One Man's Meat TDRS Music

Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments[edit]

Year Title Label Notes
2008 Transmiticate CASH Music Debut album

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sparks, Donita; Pearson, Tanya (interviewer) (July 21, 2015). "Donita Sparks" (Video interview – oral history). Women of Rock Oral History Project. Northampton, MA: Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College.
  2. ^ a b c d Dickinson, Christie (August 3, 2016). "L7 is, better late than never, getting respect". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Grant, Sarah (November 21, 2017). "L7: To Hell and Back". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Baltin, Steve (May 13, 2019). "Who I Am: L7's Donita Sparks On Ramones, Beach Boys, Andy Warhol, More". Forbes. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  5. ^ Erbentraut, Joseph (September 21, 2015). "Reunited Punks L7's Message To Millennials: 'Get It Together, Step Up'". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Ochs, Meredith (2018). Rock and Roll Woman: The 50 Fiercest Female Rockers. New York: Sterling Publishing Co. pp. 134–137. ISBN 9781454930624.
  7. ^ Serrota, Maggie (August 21, 2019). "L7's Donita Sparks Wants the Entertainment Industry to "Fucking Throw Us a Bone"". Spin. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  8. ^ Friedman, PhD, Michael (December 22, 2016). "Why Donita Sparks Is a Subversive Ray of Hope". Psychology Today. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Barlow, Eve (November 15, 2016). "New Documentary L7: Pretend We're Dead Restores the Legacy of One of L.A.'s Best Bands". LA Weekly. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  10. ^ Crist, Renée (July 1993). "The Magnificent 7". Spin. 9: 32–35, 90. Retrieved September 6, 2019 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Laban, Linda (June 11, 2008). "Even without her band L7, Donita Sparks still flies". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
  12. ^ Sisario, Ben (March 25, 2012). "Bringing an Open-Source Ethos to Bands". New York Times. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  13. ^ "New Yorker out Loud, Vol. 2 – Various Artists: Credits". AllMusic. 2015. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  14. ^ "L7 – Interview". Loud! Noises!. June 2015.
  15. ^ Tornello, Angela (August 12, 2019). "Kiss My Grits: Q&A with L7's Dee Plakas and Donita Sparks". Tom Tom Magazine. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  16. ^ Stewart, Allison (September 6, 2017). "L7 is Back, with Snarl, Riffs and Rage Intact". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  17. ^ "L7: Pretend We're Dead (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  18. ^ Grant, Sarah (February 9, 2018). "L7 Announce Tour, Slam 'Capitalist Motherf—kers' on 'I Came Back To Bitch'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  19. ^ Berman, Judy (September 29, 2017). "After 18 Years, How Do L7 Return? With a Song About Trashing Trump's Mar-a-Lago". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  20. ^ Armstrong, Christopher Andrew (May 3, 2019). "Q&A: DONITA SPARKS". Flaunt Magazine. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  21. ^ Callwood, Brett (May 1, 2019). "Scatter, Rats! L7's Back With Their First Album in 20 Years". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  22. ^ Garcia-Navarro, Lulu (May 5, 2019). "L7's Donita Sparks Talks Women In Rock And The Band's New Album, 'Scatter The Rats'". National Public Radio. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Grow, Kory (March 7, 2019). "'Punk': Johnny Rotten, Marky Ramone Spar at 'Off the F–king Rails' Documentary Event". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  24. ^ Davey, Emma (June 6, 2019). "L7'S Donita Sparks On Touring, Trump, And Her Band's Feminist Legacy". Bust. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  25. ^ a b Martoccio, Angie (April 2, 2020). "L7's Donita Sparks Launches Online Variety Show". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  26. ^ Schippers, Mimi (2002). Rockin' Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock. Rutgers University Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-8135-3075-8. kat bjelland feminism.
  27. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. p. 589. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  28. ^ Brewer, Mary F. (January 1, 2002). Exclusions in Feminist Thought: Challenging the Boundaries of Womanhood. Sussex Academic Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-1-902210-63-6.
  29. ^ Tehabsim, Anna (March 18, 2015). "Turning Points: L7's Donita Sparks". Crack Magazine. Retrieved September 7, 2019.

External links[edit]