Where has Kathleen Hannah been all my life? Actually,I know the answer to that.
I’ve known her name for years but I never really took the time to investigate. By the time I heard of Kathleen and her band Bikini KilI, my female bands of choice were L7, Manhole, Babes in Toyland, Hole. I had heard some Bikini Kill songs but they didn’t do a lot for me. If I could go back in time I would give them another chance because this documentary changed the way I felt about Bikini Kill and Kathleen Hannah has become my new she-ro.
The Punk Singer is all about Kathleen Hannah and the impact she made as a musician, feminist, zine writer and generally an all round artist and badass. The film also reveals the reason behind her retirement from the music industry in 2005; Lyme Disease. While Kathleen is far from being the first punk rock woman to shake things up, she is part of a select group of female musicians who changed a generation and continues to inspire today.
The thing that first hits you is the fire and passion this woman has in her belly. Kathleen had something to say and by god she was going to say it, no matter what anyone thought. Starting with spoken word poetry she moved into music after talking with writer Kathy Acker.
“Acker asked me why writing was important to me, and I said, ‘Because I felt like I’d never been listened to and I had a lot to say,’ and she said, ‘Then why are you doing spoken word—no one goes to spoken word shows! You should get in a band.”
So start a band she did. Bikini Kill was born in 1990 in Olympia, Washington and while always avoiding the mainstream rock press ended up being close friends with Kurt Cobain and Kathleen is the woman responsible for giving Kurt the idea to name one of their songs Smells Like Teen Spirit.
From here it’s all punk rock feminist awesomesauce. Kathleen is a prolific songwriter and collaborator unafraid to tackle the social issues that needed discussing, particularly in the male dominated world of rock. Kathleen encourages the girls in the crowd to come to the front of the stage when they play. Giving many girls the opportunity to see a woman rock out and have something powerful to say is a pretty great gift.
Married to Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock from The Beastie boys) who actually filmed one of the film’s more emotional scenes as Kathleen tries to describe how she feels now she’s having to take medication that’s going to make her worse before she gets better. Kathleen retired from music in 2005 citing she had nothing left to say and was done with music, the real story is explained in the documentary, after years of suffering from strange symptoms it was finally discovered she had lyme Disease.
This documentary is fantastic, it not only tells the story of an truly interesting woman but it makes you want to start your own band or create some art or voice your opinions a little louder.
The film is available to watch on US Netlfix so go check it out!