Radical Harmonies – (USA, 2002)

movieposterTake a closer look at the women artists who changed the face of modern music in this documentary from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Dee Mosbacher. Before there was Ani Di Franco and Melissa Etheridge, female recording artists were struggling to shatter stereotypes and find an audience for their music. It was their sacrifices that made the careers of some of today’s hottest female recording artists possible, and this is their film.


lesconLP51LUnc0YfeLOlivia Records was a collective founded in 1973, to record and market women’s music. Olivia, named after the heroine of a pulp novel by Dorothy Bussy who fell in love with her headmistress at French boarding school, was the brainchild of ten lesbian-feminists (the Furies Collective and Radicalesbians) living in Washington D.C. – who wanted to create a feminist organization with an economic base.

Olivia was co-founded by Judy Dlugacz. In 1973, the collective put out a 45 with Meg Christian on one side and Cris Williamson on the other. Yoko Ono responded and said that she wanted to do a side project with Olivia, but the collective politely declined. Without making themselves dependent on any high-profile person, they made $12,000 with that 45, enough to put out singer Meg Christian‘s first record, and soon after, Williamson’s groundbreaking album The Changer and the ChangedSandy Stone was Olivia’s sound engineer from ca. 1974-1978, recording and mixing all Olivia product during this period.

In 1977, after repeated criticism by Anita Bryant, Olivia put out Lesbian Concentrate, a collection of songs and poetry with part of the proceeds going to benefit the Lesbian Mothers National Defense Fund. Included on the 13 track LP is Meg Christian’s „Ode To A Gym Teacher” and Sue Fink’s „Leaping Lesbians”.

Olivia moved first to Los Angeles to stay on top of the burgeoning music scene and then to Oakland, California. The remaining five women of the collective, who had been pooling their money and even living together for the previous seven years, began to disperse. Olivia stopped putting out new records and instead performed a series of 15th anniversary concerts in 1988. The two concerts at Carnegie Hall in NYC were the largest grossing concerts at that venue in its history. Yet, The New York Times barely mentioned the show.

Even though Olivia Records released world music and salsa records, they were most successful with acoustic solo acts, although sometimes they failed to identify mainstream talent. In 1985, singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge, then a struggling Los Angeles artist, sent her demo to Olivia, but was ultimately rejected. Etheridge went on to become one of most popular female performers of the 1980s and arguably the most successful lesbian musician of all time. She saved the rejection letter, signed by „the women of Olivia,” which was featured in Intimate Portrait, the Lifetime television documentary of her life.

Unable to reinvent themselves for the changing musical landscape for women, from riot grrl to Lilith Fair to Ani Difranco, Olivia could no longer sustain itself as a record label.

Olivia Records founded Olivia, the lesbian cruise line, in 1988.

** Video removed by owner of license

The documentary Radical Harmonies was shown on/at:

Country Date
USA 28 june 2002 (San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival)
UK 3 april 2002 (London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival)
USA 11 october 2003 (Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival)
USA 7 march 2004 (Southern Arizona Wingspan LGBT Film Festival)
Canada 10 match 2004 (Kingston ReelOut Queer Film and Video Festival)
Iceland 13 march   2004 (Reykjavik Gay and Lesbian Film Festival)
USA 8 may 2004 (Boston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival)

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