June Millington named her new autobiography "Land of One Thousand Bridges." A more appropriate title would have been, "Woman of Thousands of Bridges."
In her 67 years, the Filipina-American (whose father is from Vermont) has connected with and inspired a huge number of artists, as a performer, as a producer, as a friend, and most recently, as a mentor. Her book chronicles many of these bridges, but not nearly all of them. The 530 pages merely cover her life before and after entering the rock world through 1975. Her next book will need to be even longer, to do justice to the next 40 years of her unique journey.
And by all accounts, June Millington has a lot left in her tank.
One of the pioneering guitarists greatest bridges led to David Bowie, who in 1999 gushed to Rolling Stone Magazine about the legacy of her band Fanny, "They were extraordinary. They are as important as anyone else who's ever been, ever. Revivify Fanny and I will feel that my work is done."
Unfortunately Bowie passed before that happened. But if he is looking down from Rock and Roll heaven, he would surely be pleased to see that this coming Sunday afternoon, Fanny will be revivified at the June Millington Retrospective in Northampton.
Those familiar June Millington's accomplishments, know well that her impact stretches far beyond Fanny. Two of her largest bridges spans the Women's Music Movement and then into her ongoing project, The Institute for the Musical Arts (IMA, www.ima.org) is a nonprofit located in Goshen, Mass. whose mission is to support women and girls in music and music-related businesses.
All three phases of Millington's legacy will be represented at Sunday's Retrospective. The all-star lineup will include appearances from Holly Near, Jill Sobule, Toshi Reagon, Naia Kete, Christine Ohlman, Mitch Chakour, Sonya Kitchell, Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie's longtime bassist) as well as members of Fanny- plus a virtual appearance by Earl Slick (Bowie's longtime guitarist).
Former Fanny drummer, Brie Howard-Darling will be traveling from her home in California for the show. In a phone interview, I asked her to recount some of the other bridges June and her band-mates made when they were starting out – in a house in Hollywood Hills they called Fanny Hill. "There as Lowell Georg and Little Feat – they were our peers at the time. Members would stop be the house and just be there when I got home. They could be staying there for a while or just there go jam in the basement. There are a lot of people that went on to do well, that at the time in the same boat as us, like Bonnie Raitt. I met Joe Cocker there. As a matter of fact I gave him a ride home. One time I came home from doing something and all of The Band was there sitting on the sofa, doing whatever they do". Brie laughed. "At the time, it was just some of the guys. It did not feel like being with the legends that they became."
One of the legends June Millington touched was Holly Near who was at the forefront the Women's Music Movement. In an email exchange, she reflected on her collaboration with Millington and her mentoring aspiring musicians at IMA. "June Millington has been a force in pop and rock music by women for as long as I can remember. In the very early eighties, I hired June to produce a recording for me that would lean in to the pop world more than the folk or musical theater. She did an amazing job of walking that line – not so rock that I would feel out of water and yet with a definite June groove. I called it "Fire In The Rain" and it was the biggest selling recording I had had to date."
Near also spoke to the powerful influence IMA has had for so many girls entering the field and the obstacles Millington had to overcome. "Because of June's long standing work in music, she draws a powerful line-up of each year – singers, drummers, recording engineers – because if you are going to play rock and roll you got to know your gear! Recently I did a panel with June at the 40th Anniversary of the National Women's Music Festival held in Madison. She spoke of her life in the Philippines and the racism that still follows women of color in the music world today. So it is a double whammy. She not only "plays like a girl," she plays like a brown girl. And the result is fantastic. Powerful, funny, tender, highly crafted, smart."
One of those IMA teachers was soul singer Christine Ohlman, the "Beehive Queen" who recently wowed the audience at Next Stage Arts in Putney. "I met June and her partner Ann Hackler for the first time when I visited IMA to get my feet wet at the annual summer Rock and Roll Camp for Girls (delivering a workshop on the historic contributions of women to the blues and soul genres that June aptly titled "The Foremothers"). What can I say? Between the Beehive Queen and IMA, there was love at first sight. What a sensational place, and what better sensational, rockin' chicks to run it than June and Ann? June Millington is a constant inspiration, and as our friendship has evolved, I've met so many other great musicians and connected with mutual friends (special shout-out here to the great Bonnie Bramlett!). It's an ongoing love, and I am proud to serve on the IMA Advisory Board. June-you rock, you roll, you inspire, you edify, you uplift "
In a face-to-face interview a couple of weeks ago at the IMA Campus, Millington talked about the uplift, revitalization, reflection, and ongoing lessons she herself absorbs from teaching young girls the music business ropes. "IMA is MY teacher in the sense that when we first started our rock and roll girls camps in 2002, I just thought this would be a lark, I'd just teach. I had to drop most of what I thought was going to be my curriculum because I realized, 'Oh, I am looking at myself at thirteen'. Now, I can't be that girl because I am supposed to be a teacher, so that is a struggle that have to learn and re-learn and that is part of IMA being my teacher. The other piece of it is, I realized it actually is a serious direct transmission of not only what I know but of the energy of how I can pass things on, which is sometimes really tough. The girls are like, "Where did that come from?"
Now in her late 60s, with all of her experiences and connections as well as a tribute concert just a few days away, June Millington is determined to pass the torch to generations of female artists, with no intentions of stopping anytime soon "I am trying to pass on so that the girls can take a little of that strength. It is almost like a Steel Magnolia thing, except in this case it is a Filipina-Vermonter Magnolia. I constantly have to relearn what it is like to pass it on and create with these girls without scaring them with an onslaught of what I know and realizing that actually I am looking at myself . So it is full circle which is an amazing revelation and it is ongoing, that is what is so cool. I've opened up a way to do it, I can do it and, I will do it until "
At that point Millington shook head, paused, then smiled. "Until whatever".
June Millington Retrospective Sunday, Feb. 21 at The Academy of Music Theatre –, 274 Main St., Northampton, Mass. at 3 p.m. showtime, Doors open at 2:30 p.m. $15 general admission, $25 for premium reserved seating, $35 VIP reserved seating for tickets and information at junemillington.rocks