It’s been quite a year — and definitely not the one anyone expected 365 days ago. There’s no way to sugarcoat how terrible it’s been, between the pandemic, racial tensions and political strife.
I count myself as lucky, but still experienced a lot of pain and sadness. I haven’t been to Maryland, my home state, since March, and haven’t seen my family in months. My poor kids have had to endure nearly a year of part-time or full-time “home school” — and while their dad has a master’s in education and I’m a guitar teacher, helping them learn was harder than we expected!
But there are so many silver linings to the 2020, and I need to take a moment to share a few of them right now:
Both of my kids learned how to ride their bikes. Bye, bye, training wheels!
I spent 1 out of every 2 days at the beach between May and October.
I set out a resolution to play 12 shows in 2020 and I DID IT!! My band Trashing Violet knocked out four in January and February, and between 3 livestream solo gigs on Facebook, and one neighborhood driveway gig on 6/21 (Make Music Day), I also played a party with my band, and a fun Halloween gig on our drummer’s driveway for his neighbors. Oh yeah, I played First Friday Norwalk (solo) with my friends Castle Black, and The Cellar with my husband and friends (with my kids watching).
Orchestrated a GRGR (Girls Rock Girls Rule) reunion show in Brooklyn with my crew — Michele, Rew & Gail — in February before the apocalypse came.
Interviewed at least 30 artists/musicians/rockmommies
ran a camp for my kids all summer
experienced more things outdoors in cold weather than I ever thought possible, with and without heat lamps (who thought we’d own one?!). I’ll never forget that night in December when my band practiced in our drummer’s backyard in 15-degree weather.
Grew Rockmommy’s followers and published a ton more content.
Learned the basics of DIY home recording, and purchased my first-ever PA, bass, and professional microphone/console set.
Spent so much time with my spouse and kids. I love them so much and am so grateful they have my back.
So here’s to looking forward, and taking on the future with gratitude. I’m hoping for the best for humanity and everyone I love. Thank you for reading this blog, and for being a valuable part of the #Rockmommy community. XOXOX and Happy New Year!
The first time I met Alan Merrill was on my show ‘Rewbee’s World.’ My friend Jo Brat said she’d recently met him at a random party and I needed to get him on the show since he was the actual songwriter who wrote ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll.’ It’s incredible how everyone reacts in surprise when they hear that.
That first meeting was more than a decade ago, but it was LOVE at first sight, in a way. Alan immediately adopted me as his sister… he always told me my ‘Rew’ sticker was the only sticker he ever had on his guitar case… I miss him and think about him every day. He passed away in early Spring 2020 due to complications stemming from the coronavirus.
I recently caught up with his daughter, Laura Merrill, a creative soul in her own right, to talk about Alan and his legacy.
Rew Starr: I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. Alan your dad was very special to me and zillions of others. How are you doing?
Laura Merrill: Thank you Rew. I’ve been OK and slowly adjusting to the new normal. Life without my father is very strange.
He was and has always been someone I could turn to for advice and guidance… especially during a worldwide pandemic. Everyone knew him as a rockstar and to me he was always Daddy.
Rew Starr: How old were you when you realized your Dad was a Rockstar?
Laura Merrill: Well it must’ve been when I started school because he was always the one to drop us off and pick us up. I didn’t realize how different he was from the other parents until he was in the crowd of them at the end of the day waiting to pick us up. He stayed true to himself and wore his leopard spandex, bullet belt, ripped T-shirt and pink headband in the school yard to greet us.
We grew up with music being played and recorded around us since we were born so that wasn’t abnormal. It was the reaction of the other students and especially the moms drooling over him that I started to realize he was… special and a Rockstar.
Rew Starr: When did you understand the impact of his work?
Laura Merrill: It was when I’d hear ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ everywhere. In the grocery store, gym, doctor’s waiting room, everywhere and of course on TV.
Rew Starr: Your Dad was a groundbreaker in so many ways — TV, music, being a Dad spreading love. Did you inherit some of this passion? Is there any favorite thing about him you have?
Laura Merrill: Yes he definitely was a groundbreaker and marched to his own beat. I inherited a lot from him. My love for music, art and fashion. Our humor is exactly the same. Our love and understanding of social media. But mostly his heart, we are very much alike in matters of love and our view on life. That was my favorite thing about my father, his loving nature and the way he made everyone feel like they were family. I’d admire his kindness from afar and I hope to carry that on and share it in my life.
Rew Starr: What do you think he wants to see you accomplish?
Laura Merrill: I think he just wants to see me be happy and successful. Make a mark with my artistry. He was always my biggest cheerleader. I’m sure he’d like me to keep his legacy going. I work hard every day to stay true to my artistry as did he.
Rew Starr: ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ is an anthem for the entire world. How did that make him feel? How did that make you feel?
Laura Merrill: It made him feel amazing. He knew what he had accomplished and wanted the world to know he was the man behind the music. Unfortunately, he accomplished that more in his death than his life but *sigh*…isn’t that the life of a true artist? For me, it makes me so eternally proud of him.
Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?
Laura Merrill: I do write here and there but have turned my creativity towards photography and art. It’s helped me cope with the loss of my father. Songwriting is so personal and perhaps when things settle down I’ll return to it. He would’ve wanted that as he was my biggest supporter.
My father really instilled such a love for music in my soul. I can’t breathe without it. It has the ability to shape my mood.
Rew Starr: Tell me about your photography? Your ART….
Laura Merrill: My photography and art at the moment celebrate femininity and the female body. I’ve always thought the shapes — dark and light of female nudity — to be so beautiful. I photograph it along with many self portraits, and paint it as well. I think a lot of my art is my mother’s influence. She was a model in a time where people were free to express themselves. I want to embrace that freedom.
Rew Starr: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
Laura Merrill: I am ambidextrous. I hate anything to do with math and still count on my fingers.
Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a rockdaughter?
Laura Merrill: The best thing — and I didn’t realize this until after my father passed — is that with his success and now that he’s gone…he is still all around. People and fans posting videos, songs and photos I’ve never seen online. It’s like he’s visiting and still here. I’m lucky in that way I guess.
Every time I hear “I Love Rock and Roll” in a bar or on the radio it’s like him saying “I love you” from heaven.
Here’s a photo I took of him for his album just a few weeks before he died. It still feels like yesterday that he came over for the session. He brought several guitars and a ton of clothes. My brother was there as well and we just had such a great time. We were busting on my dad for some of his poses as kids usually do. He had a gig downtown just after the session and I went not knowing it would be the last time I’d see him play. He sounded amazing as always.
Days after the shoot he was rushing me to get the photos finished because he was so excited to get his album out. This is the photo he put on the inside of the CD and I really tried pushing him to make it the cover. The photo he chose pointing at the camera was a goof and I almost deleted it. It just goes to show what a silly character he is… always marching to his own beat.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician and mother who lives in New York City.
A few weeks ago, I signed up for a 20-minute “classic rock” themed Peloton class. It was brutal. And by brutal, I mean awesome. I’m a former competitive high school athlete (turned mama) who works out 6 days a week, and I could barely keep up!
The only problem? I didn’t hear any classic rock songs by women, except for a quick excerpt of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” at the end.
We heard Sting, that “Lola” song and even a Grateful Dead tune. But no Stevie Nicks. No Bangles. no Heart. No Pat Benetar. No Dusty Springfield. If these bands aren’t classic, I don’t know what is.
I’d say I’m surprised, but I’m not. This happens nearly every time I hop on the damn bike, attend a bootcamp class or do anything other than running, when I listen to playlists I made myself.
The problem isn’t that women aren’t making music! Ladies are racking up grammies, and proving they can play a guitar solo, drum solo or funky bass riff.
The larger problem is that “women rock” is seen as an addendum to the default — songs written and performed by men or male-fronted acts.
When you turn on satellite radio, or attend a “festival,” if the event or station is not specifically dedicated to women, what do you hear? If you’re listening to Sirius Hits 1, you might hear Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa — but you won’t ever hear more than two songs by female artists in a row unless it’s some kind of countdown show based on airplay (the modern-day equivalent of “American Top 40”). Through most Sirius/Spotify/Tidal/radio streams, we’re fed a diet of mostly 80% male-led music acts.
This trickles down to my workout. When cycling or Bootcamp instructors play “grunge,” I don’t hear Courtney Love or L7 nearly as much as I hear Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. These all-male bands are the “default” acts associated with a grunge sound. The women and their bands of that era, by comparison, are not considered significant.
This needs to change. The majority of people who take fitness classes are women. Why shouldn’t the majority of songs played feature women?
At a minimum, female/female-fronted music should account for at least 50 percent of a workout mix, especially for genre-based workout mixes (e.g., 80s, grunge, classic rock, metal).
We also need to ask our fitness instructors to slip a few more singles by the likes of Pat Benetar or Tina Turner into their era-themed classes.
But maybe things are looking up, even if progress is slow. On Wednesday, my husband directed me to Kendall’s 30-minute class featuring the hardest women rockers — Courtney Love, Pretty Reckless (Taylor Momsen), Orianthi, Lacuna Coil, and Evanescence. It was brutal, but blissful. And as I sung along to every song, I have never felt more grateful for a fitness instructor. I’ll be taking only her classes from here on out.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.
I love Miley Cyrus’ music so much that I cover two of her songs on the regular — “Malibu” and “Wrecking Ball.” The first one speaks to me for so many reasons; it mirrors a short period in my life when I felt exhausted and apologetic for taking the little things for granted. The second one is tear-jerkingly beautiful and powerful — and one of the greatest songs ever written.
I just started listening to Miley Cyrus’ new record Plastic Heart today, and it’s brilliant. Here’s why I’m so excited about it.
1. Things are dark AF right now.
We need a fierce, balls-out babe rocking our world right now. Miley made the record that will fix your broken December, with its face mask mandates and axed holiday visits. It will fix your head, as you drive down the highway, nostalgic for warm rehearsal spaces and gigs at dive bars. Thank you, Miley, for saving me from the depths of 2020 misery.
2. Joan Jett and Billy Idol Make an appearance.
Not gonna lie, the first track I streamed was “Bad Karma,” featuring orgasmically rich uh-huh huhs that would make Julia Michaels shiver. Joan Jett’s never sounded hotter, and neither has Billy Idol on “Night Crawling,” which is sultry and a touch goth. Yes, I’m swooning from my chair, over here in the suburbs of Fairfield, Connecticut.
3. Her voice keeps getting better.
Like fine, red wine, Miley’s vocals have aged beautifully, and on Plastic Hearts, we can appreciate their weathered, lived-in smokiness. Pitchfork’s Shaad D’Souza puts it perfectly in noting, “her sandpapery alto has never sounded more natural.”
4. She keeps proving the haters wrong.
After the 2013 MTV Awards twerking incident, Miley Cyrus underwent a serious identity crisis — stuck for years between the innocent Hannah Montana persona and full-blown womanhood. But no matter how many people called her stupid or over-sexualized, or blamed her for setting a bad example, Miley held her head high and moved forward. She continued to live her life authentically, write music, sing, show up for her family, make time for charitable events and — eventually — attempt to get sober. Who among us hasn’t struggled with identity crisis or regret? I’m sure there are stupid dudes who will look at the headline for this blog, roll their eyes, and mutter something under their breath about how dumb it is for a grown-a*s woman to rhapsodize her love of the former Hannah Montana star. They can all suck it.
5. That “Zombie” cover is so on point.
I could write a sentence or two about how many dude-infused rock bands have tried to cover this ’90s classic from The Cranberries. But instead, I’d like you to use your time to listen to it here, in its raw, guttural beauty. Spoiler alert: It’s MUCH better than any other “Zombie” cover you’ve heard.
Like the best of artists, Miley doesn’t let herself fall into one category, like country or pop. While Plastic Hearts is a rock record, there’s a country-esque tune (“Angels Like You”), which bring out her Nashville drawl, and a fun, nightclub-vibe track with the girl-of-the-moment Dua Lipa (“Prisoner”). It’s so, so good, and suddenly I find myself wanting to drive a delivery truck.
7. She wears her heart on her sleeve.
Miley’s struggled with losses in love, addiction, and trauma from the recent California wildfires, which burned down the Malibu home that inspired her love song to ex hubby Liam Hemsworth. Staying sober is no picnic, especially in Covid times, and Miley’s had a few slips. But she’s real. And real is exactly what we all need right now. Happy listening, mamas.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.
While we can’t always control the crazy, we can control how we treat other people. This month, Rockmommy connected with folksy-punk, indie-rock artist K. Britz to talk about her new single ‘Kind,’ motherhood, and having compassion for others as we navigate the day-to-day experience of pandemic life.
Rew Starr: How’s it going? What have you been doing these days?
K. Britz: It’s going alright. I used to hate when people answered that question with “Can’t complain” and yet, “Can’t complain” is probably the best answer today. Or I could be a jackass and say, “Actually kind of great.” Who says that now? There’s been many periods of my life that were a whole lot worse, and I was a lot lonelier because everybody else seemed to be having a better time. Now everyone has a certain level of compassion for each other in day-to-day interactions. If you can’t get it together people understand. For someone like me, who is naturally always a day late and a dollar short, this is the best of times.
I’ve been working on a couple creative projects and doing a lot of waiting around.
Rew Starr: You’re a mom. How’s school going?
K. Britz: I have 3 daughters. My youngest is 10 and she is in school. For now she is on a hybrid and goes every other day.
Rew Starr: So tell readers a little bit about your music. How many bands have you been in? Is it more than boys you have been with or less?
K. Britz: I’ve been in about 5 or 6 and they were all boys except when we were in the Dirty Mothers. The non-classical music world is still pretty heavy on male participation. I used to think it was because women weren’t welcome, and that may have been true in the past, but at this point in time I think it’s more benign than that. A lot of being a musician is waiting around and hanging out, and I think women are inclined to find something else to do in the meantime.
Rew Starr: We met in ‘the Dirty Mothers’, and that was so much fun, we had incredible opportunities in a short time, would you consider a revival one day?
K. Britz: Sure I would!
Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?
K. Britz: I put a single out during quarantine, a duet with Jamaican singer Mystic Bowie (of the Tom Tom Club). It’s called “Kind” and it’s started to get some radio play so we’ll see.
Rew Starr: I know you are very popular in the yoga and spiritual community. How does this influence your music?
K. Britz: Well, with yoga I learned that its easy to get people to chant with you if you make the melodies easy and even grown-ups like sing alongs. I stopped trying so hard as a singer. It’s easier to get people to sing a long with you if you make it accessible, and really, that’s the best. When the audience is singing too.
Rew Starr: What about playing out? Have there been opportunities?
K. Britz: Not really. I sang a song outdoors at a friend’s memorial this fall, but that’s it.
Rew Starr: Tell us something we don’t know about you.
K. Britz: I had my own sourdough starter before it was cool.
Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a rockmommy?
K. Britz: Writing songs about my girls.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician and mother who lives in New York City.