Songwriting took a backseat to politics for the female honorees at Thursday night’s ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Beverly Hilton. America’s rapidly spreading anti-abortion movement in states such as Alabama, Georgia and, most recently, Missouri — and resulting legal battles that could lead the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade — had veteran rock stars as well as up-and-coming artists alike raising their voices for a purpose other than singing.
Siblings and musical collaborators Finneas and Billie Eilish jointly received the Vanguard Award, and the outspoken female artist proved that she is also on the forefront of the movement to fight back against abortion bans. “Honestly, I can’t even look at my phone,” she told Variety. “I have no words for the bitches in the f–king White House.” But then she thought of some: “It’s so unbelievable. It makes me, like, red. It makes my ears f–ing steam out of my head. Women should say, should do and feel and be exactly what they want. There should be nobody else telling them how to live their life, how to do s–t. … It just makes me so mad that if I start talking about it, I won’t stop. Men should not make women’s choices — that’s all I have to say.”
For the moment anyway. Eilish and her brother will kick off their North American tour on May 29 in progressive San Francisco but they will also make stops on June 7 in Kansas City, Missouri (where abortions are banned after eight weeks) and on June 23 in Atlanta, Georgia (where abortions are banned after six weeks).
Joelle James, who was honored for writing the hit “Boo’d Up” for Ella Mai, echoed Eilish’s sentiment and also booed the ban: “We should have our rights,” she said on the red carpet. “Keep out of it, men — it’s none of your business.”
The Supreme Court announced their landmark decision legalizing abortion in 1973, which was the same year that Chris Stein joined a band called the Stilettos as their guitarist and started a romance with one of the vocalists, Debbie Harry. A year later, they formed Blondie (recipients of ASCAP’s Golden Note Award) and Harry became a pioneer for sexually liberated women in rock.
“Oh, I think it’s criminal,” Harry said of the abortion bans. “Individual rights should be respected in every way. Religion was never supposed to be a part of our government.” The longtime couple split in 1989 because Stein wanted to settle down and have children but Harry preferred the kids-free freedom of the rock and roll lifestyle. “The world population is out of balance and for economic reasons as well as whatever your personal reasons are,” said Harry. “That should be respected.”
Added Stein, who seemed less concerned with the legacy of his band than the future of women’s reproductive rights in America: “The abortion ban is completely screwed up. It has nothing to do with life or death. It’s about controlling women’s sexuality. It’s crazy, you know, and the patriarchy just won’t give up without a last gasp. My fear is I’m not going to live to see an end to this bulls–t.”
Still, the guitarist ended on a hopeful note, adding, “maybe my kids will see an end to it.”