Who were the Fannies, godmothers of rock too often forgotten

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Have you ever heard of Fannies? Unfortunately, you are in good company. Because this all-female rock band – formed in the original composition by Jean Millington, Alice de Buhr, Nickey Barclay and June Millington – is the first to release an album with a major in a male-dominated environment like the musical. of the seventies, was unfairly forgotten. To put it bluntly, David Bowie, who is always a fan of them – he also had an affair with Jean – described them as one of the best rock bands of his time, complaining that “almost no one ever mentioned them.” .

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In fact, very little is known about it, despite the remarkable success they have had and the prestigious collaborations from Barbra Streisand to Jethro Tull. Fortunately, Canadian director Bobbi Jo Hart has now thought of bridging the gap with a documentary about forgotten musicians entitled “Fanny: the right to rock”, which, after going through several festivals, premiered in the US in late May and is now targeting on-demand distribution. Jo Hart stumbled upon her story by chance: in 2015 she was looking at the Taylor Guitars website looking for a new instrument for her ten-year-old daughter. Here he found a brief profile of June Millington, the Fanny’s lead singer and guitarist. Fifty-six-year-old Hart, now living in Montreal, grew up in a hippie family in California “with lots of LPs everywhere”: David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and more. But I had never heard of the girl band. “Which bothered me a lot,” she said, “another example of extraordinary women we don’t know because history erases them.” Later, in 2017, Hart attended the Women’s March in Washington, and while listening to Madonna, she saw a woman with “gray hair” on stage: she was June Millington. So Hart decided to contact her and found that the Fannies, at least three out of four, were returning: June along with her little sister Jean and bassist Brie Darling were about to make a new album with an independent label.

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It was the right time to make a film that started from the beginning, telling the life of sisters June and Jean Millington, born in Manila to a U.S. Navy officer and a Filipino mother. In 1961, the Millington family moved to Sacramento, California, where teenage sisters struggled to fit in and were often the victims of racist insults. So they took refuge in music and founded a band of girls in the garage of their home in high school. The rest is – or rather is not – history. Le Fanny released five albums between 1970 and 1974, living the years of roaring. Like those of Fanny Hill, a West Hollywood house that Millington in the film calls “a fraternity of electric guitars.” “It was a wonderful, creative environment,” said Darling, now 72 and living in Los Angeles. “It wasn’t just people who were on drugs and having sex.” The film also talks a lot about the fact that two of the Fannies – June Millington and drummer Alice de Buhr – are lesbians, something the band has never dared to speak publicly at its peak.

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“People were asking us, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ “And I said, I don’t have time. I hated not being able to say, well, I’m in love with a woman.” Needless to say, they were inundated with sexist comments and critics were often surprised by their music, dismissing them with one: good for being girls. Millington recalled the “condescension and smile” with which they were greeted at the concerts, which were “so palpable that they become almost physical.” Today the Fannies are famous again, it’s a shame that the reunion and tour announced a few years ago never took place mainly due to health problems. Its legendary story, however, eventually spreads. Another well-deserved tribute? Director Hart has no doubt: a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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