The Best Music Writer You’ve Never Heard Of
When Ellen Willis was hired by the esteemed New Yorker magazine in 1968 to write about the seminal rock scene she became the first woman to cover the new style of music reverberating across the country.
Though extremely well respected by her peers at the time, she fell off the radar of music lovers in the ensuing decades. A new compilation of her work, Out of the Vinyl Deeps—Ellen Willis on Rock Music makes this important writer’s work available to a new generation.
Though I was very familiar with her better-known colleagues at publications like Rolling Stone, Creem and the Village Voice, I had never heard of Willis until I read about the new book in the New York Times Book Review. I devoured this collection of columns from the New Yorker, liner notes and longer pieces that appeared elsewhere during the heady period when rock went mainstream. She wrote about music from 1968 until 1974. plus a few special pieces that appeared in the 1980s and 1990s, but spent the rest of her career as a feminist theorist, author and teacher. Willis died in 2006 and her daughter edited the collection.