A Brief History of Kim Gordon: the Girl in the Band

Founding member of Sonic Youth releases memoir

harpercollins.com | Kim Gordon

harpercollins.com | Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon has been perched at the top of the alternative rock pyramid for nearly four decades. Now 61, Gordon has worked as a visual artist, musician, producer, fashion designer, music video director, and actress. As a founding member and vocalist/bassist of noise-rock band Sonic Youth, she was one of the first to surf the no wave genre into the American underground scene of the ‘80s. Cranking out new music and live performances at full speed for 30 years, there are few other bands that can claim to have released albums during both your parents’ high school years and your own high school years.

Pinned as a novelty musician from the start, much of the media made Gordon a portrait of “the girl in the band.” She channeled that label into the title of her recently released memoir “Girl in a Band.” The autobiography dives into her time at L.A. art school, her experience in the New York City no wave scene, her relationships, her music, and her wide web of musical friends from Pavement to Meat Puppets to Nirvana.

Cranking out new music and live performances at full speed for 30 years, there are few other bands that can claim to have released albums during both your parents’ high school years and your own high school years.

In the book, Gordon writes about her divorce from Thurston Moore, Gordon’s counterpart as the backbone of Sonic Youth for its entire existence, and the ensuing demise of the band in 2011. Gordon admits the memoir mostly came out of the need to reexamine her life following the divorce.

A large element of Gordon’s grandeur in American music culture is her unconventional talent to produce enduring music without actually mastering an instrument. Gordon has often stated that she is not a musician and that she never really practiced the bass. She instead uses the technique of “not learning to play your instrument that well ever” which is a skill she constantly needs to maintain. In Sonic Youth, Gordon mentions that “it wasn’t like [the band] talked in chords and stuff,” but rather just messed around with their instruments and played with the sounds that worked.

Gordon admits the memoir mostly came out of the need to reexamine her life following the divorce.

As a woman of the unorthodox, Gordon claims her memoir “Girl in a Band” is “the most conventional thing” she’s every done. A rock icon of multiple decades, her unconventionality is what makes her so intriguing; many believe her memoir has captured that, but some believe it has fizzled the mystery of the coolheaded noise rocker that kept to herself. Whatever your perspective may be, Kim Gordon has found something worth saying, and considering the ground she’s conquered over 61 years, her words are ones I don’t want to miss.