An adoring fan letter to trailblazers who have yet to receive their due, “Fanny: The Right to Rock” shines a well-deserved spotlight on a history-making rock band from the ’70s. Director Bobbi Jo Hart traces the decades-long journey of Fanny, including their origin story: in 1960s Sacramento, two Filipina-American sisters started playing music with some friends. The teens had no idea that their garage band would go on to become the first all-women band to release an LP with a major label.
Counting David Bowie among their biggest and most vocal supporters, Fanny released five albums between 1970 and 1974. Their biggest hit, “Butter Boy,” reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1975. Despite their major accomplishments, Fanny and their contributions to rock ‘n’ roll have largely been forgotten by music history.
“The Right to Rock” celebrates Fanny’s successes and mourns what ought to have been. In a time when “girls were supposed to ask permission,” Fanny members emphasize that they offered an example of “girls doing it despite everything.” And that “everything” encompassed a lot, and not just sexism. We’re told that all interviews began with, “How does it feel to be a girl playing an instrument?,” leaving Fanny to wonder if the journalists had done any research. Members’ identities as Filipina Americans “didn’t enter into the conversation,” an omission that became more egregious with time and contemplation. Fanny was also constantly asked about their boyfriends — in fact, a number of its members were lesbians.
Describing Fanny as “iconic” and “truly before their time,” famous fans — including Bonnie Raitt — and the doc suggest that bands like The Runaways and The Go-Go’s wouldn’t have had platinum records if not for Fanny. Fanny was instrumental in paving the road for women to rock, but the game-changers didn’t get the same opportunities or appreciation that their successors did.
“The Right to Rock” sees Fanny reuniting after 50 years with a new record deal, and reflecting on their groundbreaking history.
“I hope that people will walk away with a deep respect for the incredible talent of Fanny, buy their music, and share with friends, but most importantly, take action in their own lives to support girls and women, especially queer women and women of color,” Hart told us. “And for young people of every identity to be inspired to trust their own voice, as Fanny did, and be brave enough to make your voice heard, loud and proud in this world!”
“Fanny: The Right to Rock” is now in theaters.