Cris Williamson: The Changer
culture. Ladyslipper, a North Carolina-based non-profit, now publishes the worldâ€™s most comprehensive catalog and resource guide of womenâ€™s music, with over 15,000 past and present titles, many available for retail sale. The company also runs a small music label.
The Ladyslipper website lists The Changer as â€œa pivotal release which helped to launch the entire Women's Music & Culture Movement.â€
â€œBusinesses were started and maintained on the back of that album, which was like a sturdy little pony,â€ Williamson said.
Getting this album into the hands of fans was about giving them access to the music of The Changer- an outlet and an identifier in a still extremely closeted culture. The album and author Rita Mae Brownâ€™s 1977 novel Rubyfruit Jungle, about growing up lesbian in America, were markers that helped women to identify with themselves and to identify each other. You could walk into someoneâ€™s home and see the book or the album and know you were safe. â€œIt was still such a secret world,â€ said Williamson. â€œWhat I did was beckon them into the light.â€
Williamson said it is very powerful to her that women come up to her and tell her that, literally, her music saved their lives. For her, this tour is a reestablishment of the importance of live music and a reunion of women who shared in a generational movement. Today, when â€œeveryone can say the word lesbian without dying,â€ Williamson believes it vital for women to turn back to their community.
For this tour, she has assembled an amazing band of women to help her walk The Changer through time. The talented ensemble of Julie Wolf, Barbara Higbie, Teresa Trull, Vickie Randall and Jamie Sieber have been joined onstage by special and surprise guests such as Ellis, Bonnie Raitt and Holly Near. The tour will continue through the fall.
Williamson is having a great time and the shows have taken on the feeling of a movement. â€œWe are partying on, the most love that can come out of making music together,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s just not anything shallow. Itâ€™s deep and profound and gorgeous and thatâ€™s what I am looking for.â€
Williamson now owns and self-publishes all her music through her label, Wolf Moon records. She still works with Goldenrod and Ladyslipper and also sells on cdbaby.com. In conjunction with the tour, she has reissued a 30th anniversary limited edition of The Changer. The album is still grass-roots, like it has always been, getting most of its airplay by women playing the record in their cars.
For Williamson, looking back on the story of The Changer from the vantage point of the stage and time, she remembers how spontaneous, unpredictable and unprecedented its success was. And she is still up there, keeping feminist community alive, serving as a storyteller for her people.
â€œIn the 70s we did everything ourselves,â€ she said. â€œWe learned everything.â€
It was a time of invention and activism she hopes has not been lost. Williamson said that she feels that the lesbian media is promoting the image of a partying lifestyle, which she finds shallow and risky.
â€œThatâ€™s not community building,â€ she said. â€œCommunity building is a party I want to be part ofâ€¦I want to find a community that wants to build schools and highways and roads and freedom and power for women and for all people on this earth. Thatâ€™s the party for me.â€
â€œNothingâ€™s free,â€ she said. â€œNothing.â€