Cris Williamson is a lesbian pioneer. Cris Williamson paved the way for many independent women and lesbian artists with her legendary album The Changer and the Changed released in 1975. The Changer and the Changed is still one of the best selling independent albums of all time.
Back in 1974 Cris Williamson appeared on a womens radio show in Washington, DC. After answering a question about sexism in the music industry, Cris suggested the women start their own music label. It was that idea that sparked a collective of women to start Olivia Records, which now runs Olivia Vacations.
Cris Williamson took some time out as she prepares for her Changer and the Changed 30th Anniversary tour to talk about her career as a Womens Music and Lesbian Pioneer.
Kathy Belge: Youve been around the lesbian community for so many years and theres been so many changes, what has been the most profound to you?
Cris Williamson: Its not very long, 30 years, really. Trees that are that old, arent very old. But in womens history we take every stride that women have made as an important one. The advent of the web has helped us immensely. There are young women who have never known a world without computers in them. We turn there for discussions, for connections. And there's all of the literature, magazines, television. There we are.
Kathy: We have The L Word.
Cris: I honestly dont watch it just because Im mostly on the road. Ive seen once. Still I have an opinion about it, which is: It reminds me of when Native Americans were portrayed in the Old Westerns. They didnt want real Natives. They wanted people who acted like what they thought natives talked like. It comes out as this very low level stupid-sounding lingo, which isnt how they talk at all. They do have their own special way of talking, but when Native people speak it, its right. I think to have actors portraying why wouldnt you have lesbians? Theyre there. Theyre certainly there in Hollywood. Hungry as we are, we go okay, thats pretty good. Were almost there. Hunger often drives people to accept crumbs. We really want a full meal. And we deserve one.
Cris Williamson on Gay Marriage
Theres the issue of marriage. Which isnt the issue we ever thought would be the issue upon which things would turn. You cant always know whats doing to be he fulcrum, the tipping point.
Kathy: Let's talk about the beginning of your career. So, Meg Christian discovered your music in a bin
Cris: I made an album for Ampex, which was a major label. It was in those bins where you could get records. Everything was vinyl. It was vinyl and cassette. We didnt have CDs yet.
Kathy:They had cassettes back then?
Cris:(laughs) They did indeed. Primarily vinyl. Then we went to cassette, which was portable. The cassette player at that time was revolutionary. There were women in the army who were terrified of being found out. So they would hollow out the army manual--because they knew theyd never look in there--and inside would put the cassette, The Changer and The Changed and listen to it on their headphones so they could have a life that was real. But it was still a secret life. And as long as things remained secret, theres some shame there.
In all innocence, I said, Whats the big deal? So what? Love who you love.
Kathy: I imagine you were this dreamy child of 20 and you come and you meet Meg Christian and all these political, very out lesbians who are radicaladoring you. What was that like?
Cris:They werent so much adoring me. They were puzzled by me. They loved my music, but I had no politics.