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Women are rocking history at Phoenix museum

PHOENIX — Nearly a century of music history is on display at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The exhibit, “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power,” looks at the long and tumultuous history of women and music.

Created by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the exhibit at MIM, which opens Saturday, showcases more than 70 artists ranging from the 1920s to today.

The exhibit, composed of photographs, instruments, original hand-written lyrics and stage outfits along with concert posters and videos, takes the music lover to intimate places of music history, and the women who made them. It runs through April 20.

“Along the way you see increasing control by women who have taken over their careers,” said Cullen Strawn, the museum’s curator. “Moving away from not only being singers, but instrumentalists, songwriters and then taking roles in the music industry itself,” he added.

The exhibit brings to life the history of artists of Billie Holiday, Maybelle Carter, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, Cher, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Britney Spears, to name a few.

“A lot of musical instruments are on display,” Strawn said. “Outfits, primarily. That’s been an important part of the stage persona that these artists have created.”

One controversial outfit on display is the meat dress Lady Gaga wore during the 2010 Video Music Awards. “Influence beyond having fans. Power to create social change,” Strawn said of the singer/songwriter/performer’s impact.

The exhibit explores decades of creativity and innovation, and includes the roots and evolution of rock and roll, and the birth of disco, punk, and pop.

MIM is also hosting a concert series featuring rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson and Ronnie Spector from the 1960s hit girl group Ronnie and the Ronettes. There will also be an interview series with artists.

Listen to Martha’s report on Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power