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13 Times The Music Industry Royally Mistreated Famous Women

Diana Ross doesn't have a Grammy, and I'll never understand why.

In the beginning of 2021, an important conversation around the mistreatment of famous women in the media started — a dialogue that was long overdue.

Interview questions: "What do you think attracts women to bad men? "When you were married to Ike, what was the absolutely worst moment?"

The dialogue continued throughout the year as more stories were revealed and documentaries were released. They showcased not only the media's cruel mistreatment of female celebrities, but how the music industry played a major role for women in music as well.

Former Grammy President Neil Portnow claiming women in music "need to step up," and that's why they haven't won grammys (2018)

People were finally talking about female musicians and how men in the music industry mistreated them in the worst ways possible.

Paul to everyone behind John and Yoko's back: "I start writing songs about white walls, just 'cause I think John and Yoko would like that;" John and Yoko on their wedding day, wearing a white suit and white dress

This inspired us to ask the BuzzFeed Community to share when the music industry failed famous women. Here's what they had to say.

Warning: Some submissions include topics of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, physical violence, rape, and fat-shaming. Please proceed with caution.

Note: Not all submissions were made by Community users.

1. Kesha

Kesha posing at an entertainment event in London in 2009

How the music industry mistreated her: "Kesha was sexually abused by record producer Dr. Luke [who produced songs 'Tik Tok' and 'My First Kiss']. She's been stuck in a record contract with Luke, and he refuses to let her move to another label."

Kesha crying in court when she learns she won't be free from her record contract in 2016; #FreeKesha supporters outside of Sony's HQ in 2016

2. Aaliyah

Aaliyah posing for a portrait in 2001

How the music industry mistreated her: "Aaliyah, and other women who came in contact with R. Kelly. She believed he could help her with her career, and he had a system designed to enable his success and his depravities. There must be dozens of music industry enablers who haven't been held accountable [for Kelly sexually abusing Aaliyah, and illegally marrying her when she was only 15 years old]."

Aaliyah in her "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number" music video; R. Kelly and Aaliyah posing in an MTV segment in 1994

3. Janet Jackson

Jackson at a fashion show in LA in 2003

How the music industry mistreated her: The Grammys banned Janet Jackson from singing at the awards in 2004 because of her Super Bowl XXXVIII performance with Justin Timberlake. Timberlake instead suffered zero consequences and was able to perform at the awards that year.

Jackson and Timberlake performing at the Super Bowl in 2004; Newspaper headline that reads: "Jackson Banned From Grammys after Super Bowl Stunt;" Timberlake "defending" himself in a 2004 interview, saying it wasn't his style to be involved in a "stunt"

4. The Chicks

The Chicks posing for a portrait in 2002

How the music industry mistreated them: "They've since bounced back, but the Chicks were destroyed in 2003 after they said they were 'ashamed the president of the United States [was] from Texas.' This was at the height of patriotism fever, so a country artist saying [they didn't like George W. Bush] didn't end well for them."

Newspaper headline that reads: "Jab at Bush a flop for Dixie Chicks;" Chicks protesting after their George W. Bush comments

5. TLC

TLC posing for a picture backstage in 1995

How the music industry mistreated them: TLC had won two Grammys in 1996, were the biggest-selling female group by that point (10 million albums sold worldwide), but they were actually bankrupt and barely received money for their major hits.

TLC describing their financial situation at the 1996 Grammys

6. Diana Ross

Ross posing for a portrait in the 1970s

How the music industry mistreated her: After her six-decade-long career and pioneering efforts that have shaped the landscape of music today, Ross hasn't received any major accolades. The artist behind huge hits like "I'm Coming Out," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and "Endless Love" has never received a Grammy award — she also hasn't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo act.

Ross performing at Central Park in 1983; Billboard Hot 100 Chart of Diana Ross' biggest hits

7. Darlene Love

Love posing for a portrait in the mid-'60s

How the music industry mistreated her: Darlene Love sang lead vocals on some of the biggest hits of the '60s, like "He's a Rebel" and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." But music producer Phil Spector never put her name on the records — instead, he put the name of a girl group, the Crystals, on Love's songs. She didn't receive any royalties for her chart-topping work, but finally received recognition in the industry in the 2010s.

Love working with Spector in the '60s; Love accepting her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award

8. Ronnie Spector

Spector posing for a portrait in 1978

How the music industry mistreated her: "Producer Phil Spector destroyed the potential career of the Ronettes [a '60s group led by his then-wife, Ronnie Spector] by withholding contractually obligated recordings. Spector refused to let Ronnie go on tour with the Beatles and forced her to stay in California while a previous member sang lead."

Album cover of the Ronettes' "Walking in the Rain" and "How Does It Feel;" the Ronettes posing with Phil Spector in the 1960s

9. JoJo

JoJo at "TRL" in 2004

How the music industry mistreated her: "JoJo's first two albums, JoJo and The High Road, weren't available to stream anywhere because her former labels, Blackground Records and Da Family, withheld her music. JoJo filed a lawsuit against them in 2009 because she was only 12 years old when she signed her record contract (which is against New York State Law)."

JoJo in her "Leave (Get Out)" music video

10. Martha Wash

Wash performing live on stage in 2015

How the music industry mistreated her: "Martha Wash is an incredible singer with a distinct and uniquely powerful voice from the club/dance music scene in the '90s. However, the music industry decided she wasn't 'pretty' or 'marketable enough' back then (i.e., not thin enough), so they used her vocals and had other people lip-synch them in music videos. Because she didn't receive proper credit, she lost a ton of royalties that she rightly deserved."

11. Yoko Ono

Ono posing for a portrait in 1973

How the music industry mistreated her: Yoko Ono cowrote "Imagine" for John Lennon's 1971 album Imagine, but Lennon didn't give her songwriting credit. Ono finally received songwriting credit for "Imagine" at NMPA's Centennial Annual Meeting in 2017 once it was learned that Lennon pulled the majority of the lyrics from her 1964 poetry book Grapefruit.

Lennon and Ono in the "Imagine" music video from 1971; Lennon and Ono at a "Grapefruit" book signing; An an excerpt from Ono's poem "Cloud Piece" that reads: "Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in"

12. Big Mama Thornton

Thornton performing at a show in the 1950s

How the music industry mistreated her: "Elvis Presley got famous off of 'Hound Dog' in 1956, a song Big Mama Thornton originally released in 1953. He stole it and made it his own, and it became one of the biggest songs in rock 'n' roll history (Thornton's version, however, never received worldwide praise and recognition like Presley's). She's yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is strange, because she's the one responsible for shaping rock 'n' roll music."

Big Mama Thornton singing "Hound Dog" on TV; Presley singing "Hound Dog" on TV

13. And Taylor Swift

Swift on "The Today Show" in 2010

How the music industry mistreated her: When Scooter Braun bought out Taylor Swift's former label, Big Machine Records, in 2019, he acquired all of her masters. Swift didn't own any of her music, and after years of trying to win them back, Braun negotiated with a frivolous deal. Swift has since signed to label Republic Records and has been re-recording her albums that were initially released on Big Machine.


Suggested by: 435196

Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.