Where Are All the Women Producers? Here Are 5 Famous Ones
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Massy
For some time now, many of pop music's biggest stars have been producers. You've got your Diplos, your Pharrells, your Danger Mouses. Rick Rubin was a lynchpin of the biggest hip-hop albums of 2013.
But one question: Where the hell are all the women? You'd have to be a troll to think a lady can't make a hot record - and, indeed, many are doing so as we speak, particularly in the realm of EDM - but no woman has ever won a best producer Grammy, and those who have been nominated got nods solely for work on their own albums.
The fact is, it's still largely a boy's club. We won't get into why - theories range from the fact that women are traditionally less involved in engineering, to the whole work/family balance thing - but we would like to shout out some of the most famous and best female producers from history. Here are five.
See also: 10 Proudly Feminist Musicians
The mother of hip-hop? Indeed. A star singer in her own right, Sylvia Robinson is best remembered for taking rap music mainstream from her and her husband's Englewood, New Jersey studio. She produced Sugar Hill Gang's s "Rapper's Delight" - rap's first hit, which ultimately sold more than eight million copies and inspired thousands of imitators. Robinson also co-wrote and produced Melle Mel's "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message," the latter an astronomically important song in hip-hop's early development. She passed away in 2011.
Perry is a renaissance woman. As a member of '90s stalwarts 4 Non Blondes she sang lead on their quintessential hit "What's Up?" and went on to become a well-known songwriter and producer. Most notably, Perry produced Pink's number one hit single "Get the Party Started" and Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" in addition to loads of tracks for artists including Britney Spears, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys and James Blunt. She is currently a member of the band Deep Dark Robot.
Working largely in the realm of alternative rock, Sylvia Massy is probably best known for producing Tool's 1993 multiplatinum LP Undertow. She also has production credits on tracks by bands including Sevendust and Powerman 5000. Massy has worked extensively as a sound engineer and mixer, most notably on System of a Down's eponymous 1998 debut, the Red Hot Chile Peppers' "Love Rollercoaster" and on Johnny Cash's album Unchained, which was produced by Rick Rubin and won a Grammy award for Best Country Album in 1997. Prince himself offered Massy a gig at his Paisley Park Studios in Minnesota after she engineered Diamonds and Pearls, and she turned him down. While Massy temporarily relocated from L.A. to the tiny NorCal city of Weed, where she opened a recording studio called the Loud Palace and founded the 4&20 Blackbird Music Festival, she recently returned to Los Angeles.
"A career in music production means a lot of 14 hour days in a dark studio with little outside contact," Massy says about why there aren't more female producers. "Women can find it hard to meet new people in that type of environment, and most eventually gravitate into fields that allow them to grow socially."
Before she was a judge on American Idol (seasons eight and nine) Kara DioGuardi was famous for writing dozens and dozens of pop hits for artists including Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Celine Dion. Her production credits include co-credit for Kelly Clarkson's "Walk Away" and co-credits on a pair of tracks from Britney's shaved head-era masterpiece Blackout. She also shares an executive producer credit with Lindsay Lohan on LiLo's 2005 sophomore LP A Little More Personal (Raw). Not exactly heavyweight stuff, perhaps, but there's undeniable skill in creating pop hits, especially when the people performing them are a bit stiff. DioGuardi's memoir, A Helluva High Note: Surviving Life, Love, and American Idol, was published in 2011.
Pottinger was royalty in the Jamaican music scene, producing albums for reggae groups including by The Ethiopians, Delano Stewart, The Melodians, Alton Ellis and Toots & the Maytals during the 1960s and '70s. Her best known work is probably Harder Than the Rest, the 1978 LP by roots reggae group Culture. Pottinger passed away in 2010.
See also: 10 Proudly Feminist Musicians
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