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Cork celebrates female icons

Wednesday, 6th March, 2019 4:32pm

With International Women’s Day just around the corner, Cork is set to celebrate music icons like Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell in the next month.

International Women’s Day takes place on Friday 8 March, and a host of upcoming shows will be paying tribute to some of music’s leading ladies.

RESPECT will be bringing the music of the late Aretha Franklin to Cork Opera House on Friday 29 March. Franklin’s passing in April of last year prompted tributes to the ‘Queen of Soul’ for her contribution to R’n’B music and being the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. For Laura O’Neill, who leads the six-piece RESPECT band, Franklin’s influence on female artists cannot be understated.

“The first thing I ever learned to sing was ‘Say a Little Prayer’,” she says. “I don’t think I realised the massive influence she had on me until she died. The way she commanded the stage, she had everyone in the palm of her hand,” she says.

“She had a sharp tongue too, if anyone in her band made a mistake! She was so clued in, she wasn’t just a singer. Even up until she died, she was still singing her songs in their original key, which a lot of famous vocalists don’t do.

“Because female musicians are fronting other bands rather than being in them together, we don't often have the same sense of community as male musicians. That is part of why I did RESPECT in the first place,” she explains.

Meanwhile, Cork-based singer Clare O’Mahony will be performing the songs of Joni Mitchell with a full band at The Everyman on 6 April.

“While in college I started listening to Joni’s ‘Blue’ album, and it was something I’d never really heard before,” she says.

“Joni is such a strong force. She’s had her own story, having a child while in college who had to be put up for adoption, and being treated very badly during that experience. So there’s a lot of things that are still relevant, with the scandal over the mother and baby homes here in Ireland, for example. It’s great to be able to put forward the themes she discusses through the songs, especially just after International Women’s Day.”

With Mitchell now aged 75 and recovering from a brain aneurysm suffered in 2015, Clare says performing her music brings joy to those who are unlikely to see the singer play live.

“I feel you don’t hear people covering her music a lot, as you would with artists of a similar era, like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I’m not trying to be her, just playing those songs for those who are fans but who realistically aren’t going to hear her play. Some of the feedback I’ve gotten from gigs so far is that it’s been nostalgic for people who were around at that time.”

Laura O’Neill says RESPECT will incorporate other leading women such as Dusty Springfield into the show, as well as titans like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

“We won’t just be doing Aretha - there’ll be some that Aretha loved and covered, so it’ll be a night with lots of surprises,” she assures.

International Women's Day takes place on Friday 8 March.

RESPECT – A Tribute to Aretha Franklin takes place on Friday 29 March at Cork Opera House. The Songs of Joni Mitchell, performed by Clare O’Mahony and band, will take place on Saturday 6 April at The Everyman Theatre. Tickets for both events are on sale now.

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