‘The queens of rock ‘n’ roll’: Montreal filmmaker gives Fanny the buzz they deserve


Bobbi Jo Hart’s latest documentary tells the story of the first all-female rock band to release an album with a major label.

Article content

Def Leppard lead singer Joe Elliott loved them. Helen Reddy once called them “the queens of rock ‘n’ roll.” David Bowie was a huge fan.

Said Bowie: “One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without trace… They’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time.”

They’re all talking about Fanny, the first all-female rock band to release an album with a major label. The group toured with everyone from Slade to Chicago, released five albums in the 1970s and garnered rave reviews from critics and rock stars alike. But you’ve probably never heard of them because they rarely appear in the official musical histories of the era.


Article content

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Now Montreal filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart wants to change that. She has made a feature documentary, Fanny: The Right to Rock, that attempts to rewrite that rock history and suggest that maybe, just maybe Fanny was forgotten simply because rock remains a man’s world and the historians — and the industry — has trouble coming to terms with an all-femme band and even more trouble with women rocking when some of those women are gay and Filipino-American.

Fanny: The Right to Rock opens theatrically in Montreal this week, screening nightly at Cinéma du Parc.

Hart, a seasoned documentary director, discovered Fanny by chance in 2016 and she couldn’t believe she’d never heard of them.

“I was equally excited and p—ed off,” said Hart in an interview on the weekend at the Club Social on St-Viateur St. “Many of my films are about women and girls and they’re often about marginal communities, about stories that have been buried. To me, Fanny was another example of this.”


Article content

Her film tells the story of Fanny, starting with sisters Jean and June Millington and their family moving from the Philippines to Sacramento, California in the early 1960s. They formed a couple of all-female bands before creating Fanny at the end of ’60s and inking a deal with Reprise Records.

The documentary features interviews with well-known music figures singing the praises of Fanny, including Elliott, John Sebastian from The Lovin’ Spoonful, The B-52’s Kate Pierson, Kathy Valentine from The Go-Gos, and musicians Earl Slick and Gail Ann Dorsey, both of whom frequently played with Bowie.

Hart brings the story right up to the present, following the band as they work on an album they’d hope would introduce them to a new generation. 2018’s Fanny Walked the Earth didn’t really do that, but the film, which has played festivals across the continent, is creating a new buzz for the band. Some of the band members have been playing live after screenings, including here in Montreal.


Article content

Fanny: The Right to Rock had its local première at Pop Montreal a few weeks back and lead guitarist June Millington was on hand to add her sizzling riffs to a post-screening set of Fanny covers cranked out by Montreal all-female alternative band NOBRO.

“It makes me even more excited to be normalizing women as they get older in life and are still kicking ass,” Hart said. “Knitting is amazing, but why not be wielding a Gibson guitar and playing kick-ass riffs? The film is not only taking on ageism. It’s taking on sexism, like the band did.”

Hart just thought it was a fascinating tale.

“It’s also shining the light on other female bands that we should know about,” says Montreal filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart about her latest documentary, Fanny: The Right to Rock.
“It’s also shining the light on other female bands that we should know about,” says Montreal filmmaker Bobbi Jo Hart about her latest documentary, Fanny: The Right to Rock. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

“They were ahead of their time,” Hart said. “They were women of colour, there were queer women in the band. Back in the day, the label said nothing about that. The record label wasn’t promoting them that way. The articles from back then really focused on the gimmicky side of the band, so why didn’t I know about them? History is written by the victors, so I wanted to rewrite their story. Women are often written out of history.”


Article content

This year The Go-Gos, Tina Turner and Carole King will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but in its history, only eight per cent of the inductees have been women.

“The people making the decisions, whether it’s record labels or bands, are men,” Hart said.

That’s why Hart has pushed hard to have female musicians play after film screenings in different cities.

“(The film) is not only celebrating Fanny’s musical legacy,” Hart said. “It’s also shining the light on other female bands that we should know about. Like NOBRO in Montreal.”

For Hart, this is more than simply a film.

“My mission is to get Fanny into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she said.

Fanny: The Right to Rock is opening across Canada this month and plays at Cinema du Parc nightly this week. For more info, visit the web site: cinemaduparc.com. It will be on Crave at some point in 2022.





Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Images are for reference only.Images and contents gathered automatic from google or 3rd party sources.All rights on the images and contents are with their original owners.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.