Garbage’s Shirley Manson Thrives on Unapologetic Heroines

4. The Beatles and Yoko Ono I was in music class the morning we all found out that John Lennon had been killed. I had an amazing music t...


4. The Beatles and Yoko Ono

I was in music class the morning we all found out that John Lennon had been killed. I had an amazing music teacher and she allowed us to sit and cry, and she wept with us.

I pored over the news regarding Yoko Ono and her grief as a widow. I’d always had a lack of interest in Yoko, because I bought into the ways that she had been sidelined by misogyny. That is the tragedy. But over the years, I’m astounded by what a pioneer she is, not just in art but in gender and environmental politics. I was so lucky to be invited by Gxrlschool L.A. to perform a tribute to her at the Disney Concert Hall, and I got to sing “What a Bastard the World Is.” At the end of the performance I got a note that Yoko wanted to meet me. I’m giving myself goose bumps just talking about it.

5. Pris From “Blade Runner”

I’m always chasing Pris — in my dreams, in my stage performances, in my fantasies. I grew up in the ’70s in Scotland. There were topless models in the newspapers. To see someone that I knew most men would find freaky when I found her alluring and androgynous just freed me from believing that I had to play a certain game. Pris formed a taste in me for something outside of the typical male gaze. Suddenly, I was like [expletive] it. I don’t want to be a boring woman.

6. Louise Bourgeois

I was in London. Garbage had just been dropped by Interscope Records. My career was in the toilet. I was creeping up on 40 in an industry that’s not kind to women who are over 25. I was hanging out with the video director Sophie Muller and her old art-school teacher said to us, “Go to the Tate and see the retrospective on Louise Bourgeois.” We became groupies. At the time, Louise Bourgeois was 95, and she was still painting. And standing in the middle of the Tate reading up on her, a darkness broke out of me. I was like, you know what? I may no longer have a successful career, but I can still be an artist. I was overtaken with a determination to engineer my own life.

7. Ken Burns’s “Jazz”

During quarantine, I had my whole brain exploded by this series. I had always thought of jazz as something fusty and sort of conservative — it’s always been a closed door to me. “Jazz” really shook me up. It gave me a phenomenal basis in understanding contemporary American music and an incredible perspective on systematic racism, colonialism and also great genius.

8. “The Jump” Podcast

I’m on my third season now and it causes me unbelievable amounts of stress. I feel like I’m not smart enough to be in the position that I’m in. However, it has been an extraordinarily rewarding experience. When you sit down with people for a couple of hours, you get their energy.

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