Doro Pesch is performing this Wednesday, March 11th at the Bluebird Theater. Pesch got her start as a rock and roll singer at the age of three when she started singing Little Richard's "Lucille" around the house. It was a perfect start for a woman who would go on to become one of the few female lead singers in heavy metal in the '80s. By the time she formed Warlock in 1982 at age eighteen, Pesch was a veteran of hard rock. She later became the first woman to front a heavy metal band at the Monsters of Rock tour, in 1986. Her legendarily powerful voice captivated fans, and Warlock, while not a household name, became one of the more popular European metal bands of the era.
Warlock's breakthrough album, 1987's Triumph and Agony, was a true showcase for Pesch's sheer power and range as a vocalist. Following the release of that album, the band and Pesch came into conflict with management over the name of the band (Pesch has since won back the right to use the name) and 1989's Force Majeure was released under the name Doro. For that album, Pesch recorded a cover of one of her favorite three songs growing up, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum. The other two are "Ball And Chain" by Janis Joplin and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" by 13th Floor Elevators. And that song as well as other tracks were successful in the late 80s when heavy metal reigned supreme on MTV.
Like most other artists of that era that wrote and performed metal, Doro saw a dip in her fortunes with the advent of alternative rock and grunge. Yet she continued to have a successful career in Germany and Europe and has released albums regularly over the last twenty-six years including her most recent, 2012's Raise Your Fist.
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Pesch still comes across as a passionate lover of music who professes her love of hardcore but also her greater love of the kinds of melodies she found in her favorite heavy metal bands of her teenage years. One thing that has perhaps garnered Pesch enduring respect and a continued musical career is the fact that she has never crassly exploited her potential status as a sex symbol. Sure she tries to look good as the lead singer of a band, because that's part of the deal, but looking good hasn't meant for Pesch compromising her integrity as a person and as an artist.
"You might remember in the early '80s when MTV was playing all these great videos I always thought there were really great looking girls in the videos but I didn't think it looked dignified. So I wanted to make sure that people wouldn't say I looked sexy and stupid," explains Pesch. "I wanted to make sure people knew that music is what I loved. I love natural sex appeal but not to give people the idea that sex sells. I think the pictures we used were sexy but were cool and not over the top. But it was important to not look cheap because that would make the music look cheap.
"Being a girl you don't want people to get the wrong idea and think you're sexy but stupid," adds Pesch. "People said, 'Hey, can you show a little more skin.' And I said, 'Oh, no, it's enough.' More doesn't feel good to me. [Sometimes] the record company people have different ideas of how you should dress and about your image—I've had many discussions about that over the years. One of my favorite records was Love Me In Black and someone said I had to cut my hair off and make it short and black. And I thought, 'Oh, no, man.' They also said no more black leather, something more colorful. I had to take the consequence of the record not coming out all over the world. For me heavy metal hair was long and cutting it off and dying it black? I would rather the record not come out. But that is still one of my favorite records."
"When we started in the '80s, people didn't know the difference between pop and metal," concludes Pesh. "With pop people have to constantly come up with new styles and new hairdos and clothes but in metal, metalheads like the way they are. If you change a little bit here and there but you don't take away from the essence of what everybody loves. I could write a book about that subject. It's hilarious."
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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.