Happy International Women’s Day! So many great anthems for women released in the 80s to choose from, but I went with a kick-ass 1985 gem that called to me today and which united – for one time – a woman from Aberdeen, Scotland (Annie Lennox), a man from Sunderland, England (David A. Stewart) and another woman from Memphis, Tennessee by way of Detroit, Michigan (Aretha Franklin) – “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”
When Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were putting together their fifth studio album as Eurythmics, BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, they wrote what turned out to be an 80s (and beyond) feminist anthem called “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” and had intended on doing a duet with Tina Turner, who in 1984 had the biggest comeback of the year, perhaps of the entire decade.
However, Tina Turner was not available to record the duet, so Annie and Dave asked Aretha if she’d sing it, and luckily for us, she agreed. “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” was the third single released from BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, the biggest-selling album to date for Eurythmics. It was also included on Aretha’s 1985 album, WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO?, which oddly enough was Aretha’s first Platinum-selling album here in America.
“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” which additionally features three members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers (including Mike Campbell on guitar), debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the latter half of October 1985, and spent a quick week at their peak position of No. 18 in early December 1985, a week after Aretha Franklin peaked at No. 7 with the title song from her own album, WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO?
The feminist anthem was also well-received around the globe, reaching No. 5 in Ireland, No. 6 in New Zealand, No. 9 in the U.K., No. 10 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and the Top 20 in Australia, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland.
A number of cover versions of “Sisters” have been released over the years, including one from Lisa Simpson (voiced by Yeardley Smith), Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Lisa’s aunts, Patty and Selma Bouvier on The Simpsons’ 1998 album, THE YELLOW ALBUM, a play on The Beatles’ WHITE ALBUM from 1968, with its cover as a parody of 1967’s SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND. It’s also been covered by The Pointer Sisters, The Spice Girls and even Lucy Lawless covered it on her popular TV show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.
Earlier on this special day, I saw an amazing and beautiful Facebook post from one of my best friends, Shawn in NYC, a post in which he’s kind enough to allow me to share here, and a sentiment I wish to echo:
“Happy Women’s Day to all of you strong, intelligent, and beautiful women. I have nothing but love, respect, and appreciation for who you are, what you do, and all you have to put up with.”
That’s damn right. Thank you Shawn. And thank you, girls, ladies, women. With women equalling about half of the population of the world, it still bugs me that folks continue to call the human race “mankind.” Hell, “mankind” wouldn’t exist without women. Just sayin’ it like it is…
“Now there was a time when they used to say / That behind every great man there had to be a great woman / But in these times of change you know it’s no longer true / So we’re comin’ out of the kitchen / ‘Cause there’s something we forgot to say to you / We say: Sisters are doin’ it for themselves…”