Maxine Feldman

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Maxine Feldman
Maxine Feldman.jpg
Born (1945-12-26)26 December 1945
Brooklyn, New York City
Died 17 August 2007(2007-08-17) (aged 61)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Nationality American
Alma mater El Camino College
Occupation Singer-songwriter, comedian
Known for Women's music

Maxine Adele Feldman ("Max") (December 26, 1945 – August 17, 2007) was an American folk singer-songwriter, comedian[1][2][3] and pioneer of women's music. Feldman's song "Angry Atthis," first performed in May 1969 and first recorded in 1972,[4][5] is considered the first openly distributed out lesbian song[6] of what would become the women's music movement.[7][8] Feldman identified as a "big loud Jewish butch lesbian."[9][10]

In later years Feldman embraced a gender-fluid identity, according to partner Helen Thornton. Thorton described her partner's identity as "both/and" rather than "either/or."[11] Feldman had been comfortable with either gender label and wore men's clothing on stage.[10]

Early life[edit]

Feldman was born on December 26, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, Feldman had a stutter and requested lessons in acting. Feldman had a bit part as a Girl Scout Brownie on The Goldbergs. As a student at the High School of Performing Arts, Feldman performed in children's theater productions.[12]

Feldman attended Emerson College in Boston to study theater arts. After being kicked out for being a lesbian, Feldman was sent to psychiatric treatment and refused the electroshock treatment used at the time.[12] In 1963, Feldman began performing on the vibrant Boston music circuit, at Beacon Hill and Cambridge coffeehouses such as the Turk's Head, the Orleans and the Loft.[12][13] At one point, Feldman introduced a then-unknown José Feliciano.[12]

In 1968, Feldman moved to Manhattan and then to Los Angeles. Feldman attended El Camino College[14] in Los Angeles County and helped to found the campus women's center.[12]

Career[edit]

"Angry Atthis," of course, is a play on words. I was "angry at this" lesbian oppression. My brainy girl side wanted to call my piece "Sappho's Song," but then I read that Atthis was the name of one of Sappho's lovers. And "Atthis" began to appear to me as a better statement of all I felt. The song just spewed out of me.
Maxine Feldman

Feldman wrote the consciousness raising song "Angry Atthis" in May 1969,[5] prior to the Stonewall Riots. The debut of the song in Los Angeles has been credited as the first performance of an openly lesbian song.[6][15]

In 1970–1971, Feldman met the feminist comedy duo Harrison and Tyler, who had come to perform at the college. After hearing the performance of "Angry Atthis," Patty Harrison and Robin Tyler invited Feldman to open for them during their tour of the United States.[12] Feldman joined Harrison and Tyler, performing for colleges and once at a state penitentiary, the California Institute for Women. After Feldman was introduced as a lesbian performer during one show at Ventura College, the stage manager insisted on informing the audience that Feldman had not been invited by the college.[14]

A record of "Angry Atthis" was produced by Harrison & Tyler Productions in January 1972.[16]

Feldman worked off and on at The Back Room for Alice M. Brock, a friend.[12] Other venues included the Village Gate and the Other End, in New York City, and the Ash Grove in Los Angeles.

In 1974, Feldman shared the stage at the Town Hall in Manhattan with Yoko Ono. Variety magazine described the performance as a "smashing success," and said Feldman "proved an impressive spokesman for lesbians with her voice, tunes, interpretation and sense of humor."[12] The conservative National Review magazine, which also covered the show, described Feldman as "Jonathan Winters in drag," which Feldman took as a compliment.[12]

Under police protection from Ku Klux Klan protesters, Feldman performed comedy at the 1977 National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas. Feldman later said of the event, "There were three hundred KKK in the audience carrying placards that read, 'Kill all dykes, kikes, commies, and abortionists,' and I was three out of four."[2]

Openly Jewish, Feldman spoke out against antisemitism in the women's movement:

"As a kid, I was the only Jew on my block to keep my own nose, and in the Movement's early days, I was the only one to keep my own name. Women were changing their names if they had a 'man' ending. They said it was to deny the patriarchy, but they were also denying their Jewish identities. Feldman is a Jewish name, not a male name. When they asked why I didn't change it, I answered, 'Why don't Margie Adam and Cris Williamson change theirs?'"[2]

Feldman performed at the first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in 1976 and returned to the festival 14 times. Feldman's womyn's anthem, "Amazon," was traditionally performed during the opening festivities of the festival.[17][18] In 1986, Feldman gave the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival the rights to the song.[19]

Feldman recorded the record album Closet Sale in 1979.[6] The album included the songs "White Mountain Mama," "Holbrook," "Amazon," "Closet Sale," "Angry Atthis," "Everywoman," "Bottom Line," "Objectification" and "Bar One."[20]

Feldman's music was featured in Jan Oxenberg's 1975 film about lesbian stereotypes, A Comedy in Six Unnatural Acts.[21]

Death[edit]

Feldman, who did not have health insurance, became ill in 1994 and died on August 17, 2007 in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the age of 61.[11]

Legacy[edit]

Feldman was recognized as one of the founders of women's music in Dee Mosbacher's 2002 documentary film, Radical Harmonies.[12]

In 2011, the album Amazon 35 was released in Feldman's honor, on the 35th anniversary of the song "Amazon."[22] The album features the original song, along with reggae, dub, salsa and acoustic versions.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zimmerman, Bonnie, ed. (August 21, 2013). Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Routledge. p. 185. 
  2. ^ a b c Keetley, Dawn (February 22, 2005). Public Women, Public Words: A Documentary History of American Feminism, Volume 2. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 326. 
  3. ^ Mankiller, Wilma P.; Mink, Gwendolyn; Navarro, Marysa; Smith, Barbara; Steinem, Gloria, eds. (1999). The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 340. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Gail; Keith, Michael C (December 18, 2014). Queer Airwaves: The Story of Gay and Lesbian Broadcasting: The Story of Gay and Lesbian Broadcasting. Routledge. 
  5. ^ a b Warner, Sara (October 26, 2012). Acts of Gaiety: LGBT Performance and the Politics of Pleasure. University of Michigan Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-0472035670. 
  6. ^ a b c Haggerty, George; Zimmerman, Bonnie, eds. (September 2, 2003). "Music, women's". Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures. Taylor & Francis. p. 522. 
  7. ^ Vaid, Urvashi (November 18, 1995). Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 
  8. ^ Morris, Bonnie J. (July 29, 2016). The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture. SUNY Press. p. 27. 
  9. ^ Anderson, Jamie (2008). "Maxine Feldman Folk Musician, Lesbian Activist 1945 – 2007". Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine. Jewish Women's Archive. 
  10. ^ a b Sullivan, Denise (2011). Keep on Pushing: Black Power Music from Blues to Hip-hop. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781556528170. 
  11. ^ a b Kiritsy, Laura (August 30, 2007). "Lesbian trail blazer Maxine Feldman dies". Edge Providence. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Cullen, Frank (2007). "Maxine Feldman". Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. New York [u.a.]: Routledge. pp. 372–375. ISBN 978-0-415-93853-2. 
  13. ^ Willowroot, Abby (2009). "Maxine Feldman ~ Memories of Max from 1964 on". Spiral Goddess Grove. Retrieved April 25, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b Morgan, Stacey (January 1973). "Angry Atthis". Lesbian Tide. 
  15. ^ Mockus, Martha (2000). "Music, Women's". Lesbian Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1. New York: Garland. p. 522. ISBN 978-0-8153-1920-7. 
  16. ^ St. John, Martin (April 11, 1973). "Liberation music, angry and proud, enters gay life". Advocate. 
  17. ^ Hayes, Eileen M. (2010). Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's Music. University of Illinois Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 978-0-252-09149-0. 
  18. ^ Morris, Bonnie J. (1999). Eden Built by Eves: The Culture of Women's Music Festivals. Alyson Books. ISBN 9781555834777. 
  19. ^ Kendall, Laurie J. (2008). The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival: An Amazon Matrix of Meaning. Baltimore, MD: Spiral Womyn's Press. pp. 91–94. ISBN 978-0-615-20065-1. 
  20. ^ "Vinyl Album - Closet Sales - Maxine Feldman". 45worlds. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  21. ^ Oxenberg, Jan (director) (1972–1975). A comedy in six unnatural acts (Videorecording). Good Taste Productions. OCLC 155860971. 
  22. ^ "February 2011". OutRadio. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 'Amazon 35' is a CD devoted to honoring the legacy of Maxine Feldman, on the 35th anniversary of her song 'Amazon.' 
  23. ^ "Amazon Thirty Five Download". Goldenrod Music. Retrieved December 22, 2016. This album pays tribute to the song “Amazon Woman Rise,” written by Maxine Feldman in 1976 and performed as the unofficial official opening song at the festival every year! This disc has the reggae version of the song, the dub version, an acoustic version featuring Judith Casselbery and Holly Near, a salsa version featuring members of Cocomama and the original version by Maxine. 

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