The Industry

Music Legends – Evelyn McDonnell

4th March 2019

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Journalist Evelyn McDonnell has been championing women in music for the past thirty years. Her work has appeared within some of America’s biggest publications such as Billboard, the Village Voice, the New York Times, Rolling Stone and Spin. She has also authored various independent pop culture fanzines whilst becoming an authority on key artists within the feminist underground punk movement, ‘Riot Grrrl’. Here, we take brief look at McDonnell’s impressive career arc to-date.    

Evelyn McDonnell is an associate professor of the English department and Director of the Journalism and New Media program at Loyola Marymount University, California. Long before achieving this prestigious position though, she was (and still is) a true punk rock fan. In her teens throughout the mid-eighties, Evelyn would attend concerts by the likes of Patti Smith and New Order; balancing her studies on American History with a journalistic position at her college newspaper.

In the mid-nineties, as her writing career prospered with freelance commissions, McDonnell became a founding member of Strong Women in Music (SWIM), an activist group supporting women on all music-industry levels. She focused heavily on the Riot Grrrl movement, and went on to write several celebrated books such Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways, Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids, and Rock ‘n’ Roll and Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Bjork.

Evelyn’s musical and academic prestige led to her recent moderation of an expo panel for ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Performers), in which she interviewed two brilliantly talented artists, St Vincent and King Princess (left).

She’s also coedited various anthologies such as Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop and Rap and Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky: Music and Myth (with Karen Kelly). In October 2018 she released her latest book: Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyoncé. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl.

You can listen to Evelyn speaking in-depth about the book during this LMU podcast.


This most recent work, is a collaboratively-authored project profiling some of the most important, iconic and essential female artists the music industry has ever seen, including the likes of Dolly Parton, Lady Gaga, Nina Simone, Missy Elliott, Peaches, Tina Turner and many more besides.

With the shockwaves of the #MeToo movement still being felt around the world and with an increasing level of public awareness surrounding feminism and its ideals, McDonnell’s up-to-date history of women in music is as timely as it is important.

“The gender angle has always been very important to me because so few women are music critics,” Evelyn states on the LMU website. “I’ve always been very intrigued by the way in which women artists have been written about by male writers, such as how Joni Mitchell’s romantic involvements seemed to garner more press attention than her music.”

As for what advice McDonnell has for aspiring journalists, her top tip is:

“Be a good listener, read between the lines and think about what aspect of the story is being overlooked and needs to be told.”

You can follow Evelyn on her social media and web links, here.   

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