Someone has commented on the Desert Island Discs page on this blog “#diversityaudit as far as I know none of these are by women”. I have been reprimanded. This is indeed true. But they’re my favourites!
And I not only have black people in there, I have Belgians too! (I jest…) Not that I thought for a moment that I had to have black artists – or Belgians for that matter – to be ‘diverse’ in the ‘ensuring equality of representation’ sense, more that I really love soul music from the days when it really did have soul, and I love SoulWax too, and to have a list consisting entirely of post-punk/indie wouldn’t be a fair reflection of my musical tastes.
But is it wrong that I chose Sam Cooke over Aretha Franklin or Irma Thomas? There are times when both Aretha’s and Irma’s “Without Love” – totally different songs, same title – seems to me to be two of the greatest songs ever recorded. Other times I can take them or leave them. I can never take or leave “Bring It On Home to Me”, it gets me every time. (It is also Simon Cowell’s favourite – to his credit at least he’s never tried to foist an X Factor cover version upon us. Correct me if I’m wrong on that).
There was justified controversy just before Christmas when the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist didn’t feature any women sports stars. Am I guilty of the same crime? But that was about giving a choice of names to put to the public vote rather than being just someone’s very personal preferences…
I accept entirely that women ought to be represented on shortlists, be put forward for prizes… But if I like Joy Division more than the Au Pairs (who I still listen to from time to time) or the Four Tops more than the Supremes (ditto) or Bob Dylan more than Joni Mitchell (sorry, but I can’t stand Joni Mitchell!) then, well, aren’t I allowed to? Or do I have to fly the flag for the female musicians out there, and just pretend I’d rather be entertained by PJ Harvey on a desert island than by Evan Dando?
To compensate, here’s Aretha. Congratulations on getting engaged (again) at the grand old age of 69.
By the way, when I refer to her singing “Without Love” I don’t mean the better-known “Without the One You Love”, I mean “Without Love” which is pretty impossible to track down. John Peel played it many years ago (and I taped it, but many years later found it on vinyl). He said at the end “that woman could turn water into wine just by singing at it”.