I have decided to share with you some of the experiences I had as a female rocker in what was a very male-dominated field in the 1970s; this will be my first story in a series of several. You have already read here about my struggle with bulimia, but it is not the only struggle that I experienced on an intimate level. The attempts by my manager and others to control my personal life seem extreme when examined through the lens of today’s world.
I got married at nearly the same time as when I signed my first recording contract with Mercury, which I now see as having been a huge mistake as it was probably one of the worst times to have dragged another human being into the crazy vortex that was my life. Almost every connection or relationship I established during that period of time was in some way preventing me from growing in any sort of positive direction. It seemed at times that I had surrounded myself with people who only wanted a piece of me and this was a very lonely feeling. To make matters worse, my manager was a disturbingly controlling person who did not want me to have any meaningful relationship with any other human being other than him. I know now that he feared he would lose influence over me through my associations with others. Long after this time period had passed, when I would marry again at almost 40 years of age, he would refer to my husband as my “ball and chain.”
He was not the only manager who was like that, however. A manager I had while living overseas feared the same thing when I broke up with a man who worked for him. He saw my relationship with this man as a means by which he could control me from afar, and was afraid that I would become too independent if I formed an alliance with a man outside his sphere of control. Looking back, he was actually right as it indeed marked the beginning of the end of our association.
I was discouraged by more than one person in the business not to have children and even not to tell fans I was married or in any relationship at all. There was a level of sexual availability I was expected to convey to my fans as if my artistry was not reason enough for people to be interested in me. As I write this today, it seems inconceivable that I would have allowed people treat me with so little respect as a person and as an artist. It is no wonder that I did not think twice of taking it out on my body. By the time my career would crash and burn, I would have very little love left for myself and I am often amazed that I survived through it all.
I don’t pretend to know how it is for other female artists today, but I would like to think that they are given more credit and space to make their own decisions. Certainly the Internet has provided them with the opportunity to become more business savvy and less likely to be preyed upon by ruthless types.
For me, the experiences I have had confirm my long-held belief that mixing music with business can only lead to something valuable being sacrificed along the way. This sacrifice could be as minor (to them) as changing the lyrics of a song or as major (to the artist) as giving up personal autonomy. I often fantacize how it would be were I allowed a do over, what actions I would take to change some of the things that happened to me, things I now see as being the inevitable result of having made poor choices. I need to remind myself that I was essentially a child and couldn't have been expected to know any better, which is precisely why these things did happen in the first place.
There are times when I regret not having gone back to the school the very moment things took a turn for the worse, as it took years for me to recover - and that is such a good word to describe it - the dignity I lost as a young woman in a soul-crushing business. The single thought that saves me from becoming utterly depressed about the loss of time is the fact that I believe that all of this has somehow made me a better person. It sounds so cliché, I know, but right now that sort of distance from what might be a dismal reality works just fine for me.