An International Womans Day Tribute to Carol Kaye

Well today is International Woman Day. A day that in many ways should be used to reflect upon the achievements that woman around the world have made throughout the ages. Probably one of the most directly influential musicians for me also happen to be a female so I thought it fitting that I write a blog entry about her today.

Although you may not have heard of Carol Kaye you are certain to have heard her. She started her session career as a guitarist playing on tracks such as La Bamba by Richie Valens and doing sessions with artists such as Sam Cooke in the late 50’s and early 60’s. However it was in 1963 when a bass player didn’t turn up for a session that Carol was asked to sit in on the bass. It wasn’t long after that the Carol found herself as the number one session bass player in LA doing as many as three four hour sessions a day at various studios. As a consequence her list of credits is as long as it is impressive of which a full list can be found on her website.

Although Carol doesn’t do nearly as much playing these days she still teaches from her home in California and has written a large catalogue of tuition books and DVD’s. She also makes herself very accessible via her web forum sharing musical and technical knowledge and giving insight into what it was like being a busy instrumentalist during the golden age of American music. The resources she provides whilst invaluable for any serious minded bassist or guitarist would be of interest to any musician or music fan.

Carol made a career despite being one of the few females on the scene. In a world where 51% of the population is female, females have been and still are severely underrepresented within the music industry. And whilst the music industry was ahead of its time in the 60’s with mixed race sessions being almost the norm even in the deeply segregated South, women musicians seem to have either not been allowed or not available. Today we see that corporations are making progress with the proportion of females slowly increasing within board rooms and hopefully the same trend is occurring within studios however it is difficult to say if this is the case.

The reason I see Carol’s career as being important to discuss is exemplified by a response I got from a keyboardist I was doing sessions with some years back. When I was talking about Carol Kaye and her achievements his response was “what, and she’s a girl!” Whether this was misogyny or stupidity is hard to tell but long as inequality still exists between the two sexes, and we only need to look at the gender wage gap to know that it still does, it’s fair to say that as a society we are tolerating this type of response.

Hopefully in the not to distant future initiatives like International Woman’s Day will be seen as old fashioned, antiquated non-sense. Why? Because hopefully in the not to distant future real equality between genders will exist. Woman like Carol Kaye will still be recognised for their talents and achievements, but not as being an anomaly because of gender. Reactions to the achievements of someone like Carol Kaye by the aforementioned keyboardist is the reason why International Woman’s Day needs to exist. But let’s hope that by recognising and discussing the issues associated with gender inequality we can move onto to creating the society that International Woman’s Day has set out to achieve and we can hear more funky bass lines from funky females like Carol.


One response to “An International Womans Day Tribute to Carol Kaye

  • Clare Hartley

    There’s a lot of super talented women in that 51%, many that endured birth for the 49%. I think you picked a good one to recognise for IWD. 🙂

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