Lillian Roxon: The mother — and more — of rock

February 19, 2010

Mother of Rock: The Lillian Roxon StoryBy Robert MillikenBlack Inc., 2010360 pp., $27.95 pb.

In August 1970, more than 25,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue, New York in the first mass action of what became known as the women's liberation movement. Australian journalist Lillian Roxon was there.

Her celebratory report, which was splashed across the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald with a massive photo, captured the spirit of the times and conveyed her passion.

Entitled "There is a tide in the affairs of women", her report cuts directly to the heart of the personal and the political with a candour that demands a response from the reader. It is so honest about the emotional minutiae of what taking a militant stand demands of people in real life that reading it, even after all these years, brought tears to my eyes.

Roxon was deeply immersed in the swirling cultural changes of the era and passionate about advancing the most libertarian aspects of it.

She was the original rock music journalist, but did far more than trail blaze a new writing genre. She became the centre of the whole New York progressive music scene in the late 1960s and early '70s.

Her writing and selfless promotion of musicians and artists shaped the movement that produced the Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop (even Helen Reddy) and countless others.

Robert Millikin's biography is respectful, well researched and rather pedestrian. This volume comes to life with the selection of Roxon's writings in the last 100 pages. It takes off like a rocket sled.

Roxon was one of the best writers Australia ever produced; her sad death in 1973 robbed us of an insightful cultural leader.

If you have been affected by the music or politics of that era, then, unknowingly, you have been touched by Roxon. You should read this book. You deserve to get to know her and she deserves your respect.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.