Shirley Manson and Fiona Apple Dedicate ‘You Don’t Own Me’ to Neil Portnow
Fiona Apple joined Garbage’s Shirley Manson last night in a special guest performance aimed at Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow. The duet came during Manson’s headlining set at Girlschool, a festival celebrating artists who identify as female.
The two women covered Lesley Gore’s defiant 1963 Top 10 hit “You Don’t Own Me,” with Apple brandishing on a handwritten message on her t-shirt: “KNEEL, PORTNOW.” The Grammy executive drew sharp criticism when, after only one of the awards given out during the televised portion of the show went to a woman -- Alessia Cara for Best New Artist -- he suggested during a backstage interview that women needed to “step up” in the music industry. “[Women] who want to be musicians, engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level [need] to step up.
"I think they would be welcome," he added. "I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists."
He later explained the comments, saying they were taken out of context. “Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards. Regrettably, I used two words, ‘step up,’ that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make. Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never face," he said. "I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought,” he concluded. “I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.”
Since then, many inside and outside the music industry have called on Portnow to resign. A group of senior executives in the field, led by music business attorney Rosemary Carroll, took swift action in penning a letter to Portnow. It read, "The statement you made this week about women in music needing to ‘step up’ was spectacularly wrong and insulting and, at its core, oblivious to the vast body of work created by and with women,” the letter says. “Today we are stepping up and stepping in to demand your resignation.”
Instead, Portnow has announced a new task force to help address gender bias in the music industry.