Pop music’s gigantic gender gap
So many paeans to Sues and Sharonas, so few to Stans and Steves
I have just now recognized a serious inequity: There are hundreds of pop songs about or addressed to women — women of many, many different names — but relatively few about or addressed to men, especially men named something besides Bobby or Jimmy.
Look at this off-the-top-of-my-head list of women’s names enshrined in songs.
Amy, Aimee, Annie, Angie
Barbara Ann, Betty Lou, Billie Jean, Bonnie, Brandy
Celia, Candy, Caroline
Dawn, Delta, Delilah, Diana
Gigi, Gloria, Grace, Grizelda
Jackie, Jean, Julia, Jane, Jole
Lucille, Linda, Layla, Laura, Lola
Mona, Michelle, Mandy, Maggie May, Martha, Maybellene
Paula, Peggy Sue
Rhonda, Rita, Rose, Rhiannon, Roxanne
Sally, Stella, Suzie, Sandy, Sherry, Suzanne, Sharona
Valerie, Violet, Venus
No doubt you can come up with some more.
But now try recalling songs that mention a man by his first name.
Marcie Blaine wanted to be “Bobby’s Girl.”
Laura Nryo had the “Wedding Bell Blues” over a guy named Bill.
Shelley Fabares worshiped “Johnny Angel.”
Joni Mitchell wanted “Carey” to get out his cane and take her out on the town.
Martha & the Vandellas wanted to know when “Jimmy Mack” was coming back.
But where are the odes to Freds and Franks, Jeffs, Chads and Damiens? Other than Sue Thompson’s 1961 hit “Norman” and Nyro’s “Eli’s Coming,” I can’t think of many songs about guys who aren’t named something basic like . . . Bob.
OK, so why is this? I suspect the main reason is that for a long time, most of the published songs were composed by men. Stephen Foster dreamed of Jeannie with light brown hair in the 1850s, but he never immortalized a Josiah or a Ralph.
When you think about it, there are also far more nude portraits of women than men. Again, consider the source.
But now that far more women are writing their own songs, they still don’t seem to assign names to guys they write about — or to adulate them.
I’ll leave it to you readers to divine the meaning of this gender differential.