McDonnell, Evelyn

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McDonnell, Evelyn


ADDRESSES: HomeNew York, NY. Office—Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132-1693. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Music critic, journalist, and author. Miami Herald, pop music critic. Formerly music editor at Village Voice, New York, NY, and San Francisco Weekly.


(Editor, with Ann Powers) Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop, and Rap, Delta Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.

(Author of interviews and text, with Katherine Silberger) Jonathan Larson, Rent (musical; commemorative edition), Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.

(Editor, with Karen Kelly) Stars Don't Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Björk (e-book), At (New York, NY), 2001.

Contributor to periodicals, including Rolling Stone, Interview, Ms., Spin, Out, Travel and Leisure, and New York Times.

SIDELIGHTS: Cultural critic Evelyn McDonnell has chronicled the contributions of women musicians and critics to the rock music scene. Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop, and Rap, coedited with Ann Powers, is an attempt, according to Progressive critic Tom Laskin, to break the "hammerlock" male editors "have placed … on the major anthologies of rock and pop criticism." The book, covering the 1960s through the 1990s, is a diverse collection of articles, essays, and journal excerpts by academic writers, columnists, and musicians. While female rock journalists struggled to overcome the sexism of the office and the inevitable fluff assignments, they also had to work to overcome the image they often had among the musicians as "a groupie with a tape recorder," Jaan Uhelszki comments in one essay. Among the other contributors are Donna Dresch, Deborah Frost, former Creem magazine writer Uhelszki, and writer-performers Patti Smith, Kim Gordon, and Marianne Faithfull. Laskin noted that the book covers the "entire spectrum" of music criticism, from "glossy celebrity journalism" to "rambling album reviews laced with snatches of the latest critical theory" to "amateurish entries from mimeographed fanzines." Laskin added that "Rock She Wrote works well as a resource of enlightening and inspiring writing about pop music."

Many critics were impressed with McDonnell and Powers's efforts. Steve Dougherty, writing in People, asserted that Rock She Wrote "amounts to a lost treasure of pop literature" that can "move and delight in ways writers of any gender would be proud." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found that one of the fascinating aspects of this "intelligently compiled" and "wide-ranging" volume is its insistence that "the ef-fects of gender on both performer and listener [in the rock world] are far from straightforward." Jen Fleissner, writing in the Women's Review of Books, mentioned the book's "multi-voiced structure" and asserted that McDonnell and Powers not only give women critics their due, but also "rescue from opprobrium women artists shafted by rock history" and "puncture the monolith with their personal takes on that history's stage-dominating men." Fleissner also observed that the book's "anthology form highlights the fact that there will always be both a song and a listener engaging with that song, and that 'gender' may well emerge as a question squarely in the space between the two."

With Karen Kelly, McDonnell also edited Stars Don't Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth, a collection of papers presented at a New York conference on myths and popular music. The diverse group of contributors, including academics, musicians, music-video producers, magazine editors, and critics, explore in depth the mechanisms of how and why myths develop around contemporary popular music. According to Kathleen Sparkman in Library Journal, the selections are "not altogether scholarly in tone," but the book's "exploration of the myths of popular music is a worthy endeavor" that juxtaposes diverse voices in the world of rock music, from university professors to punk rockers. Mike Tribby, writing in Booklist, noted that the contributions provide "some thoughtful and informative reading," and wrote that the book, "is a valuable resource on the workings of the pop culture machine."

McDonnell's other writing credits include contributing to a commemorative edition of the book and lyrics of Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent. The book details how Rent was created and explores Larson's personal development and professional maturation. McDonnell and her collaborators "tell the story through family snapshots, notes that Larson left behind [after his death], and reminiscences from his scrapbook, Larson's relatives, roommates, friends, and colleagues," noted Jess Cagle in Entertainment Weekly. In addition to dozens of photographs and detailed commentary from Larson's family and friends, the book also contains the complete script and lyrics to Rent, which serves as a sort of posthumous comment from Larson himself. Ultimately, "what is surprising is that the book often seems more compelling and moving than the musical itself," Cagle remarked.



McDonnell, Evelyn, Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop, and Rap, Delta Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.


Booklist, February 1, 1999, Mike Tribby, review of Stars Don't Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth, p. 956.

Entertainment Weekly, May 30, 1997, Jess Cagle, review of Rent, p. 64.

Library Journal, March 1, 1999, Kathleen Sparkman, review of Stars Don't Stand Still in the Sky, p. 87; July, 2001, Heather McCormack, review of Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Björk, p. 75.

People, April 29, 1996, Steve Dougherty, review of Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop, and Rap, pp. 32-33.

Progressive, April, 1996, Tom Laskin, review of Rock She Wrote, p. 44.

Publishers Weekly, October 2, 1995, review of Rock She Wrote, p. 68.

Women's Review of Books, December, 1995, Jen Fleissner, review of Rock She Wrote, p. 6.

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