Rock's First Diva
Arlene Smith was only 16-years-old when she became the first female rock star to emerge from the world of R&B, fronting her group, The Chantels. She forged a trail later traveled by Ronnie Spector and Diana Ross. More
After I wrote my book Hip Hop, and film project that became known as Beat Street, I turned my attention to whatever happened to the biggest stars of the first generation of rock'n'roll in New York City? That trail led to Frankie Lymon and Arlene Smith. Frankie was long dead, so I built my story (which was hopefully going to be my third Village Voice cover in a row, following my profile on Afrika Bambaataa and portrait of the Fun House's Juice Crew) around Arlene Smith. Although my editor Tulani loved the story, the Voice strangely declined to publish it due to pressure from Robert Christgau, who vetoed the piece, even though I thought it carried an important message for the first generation of hip hop. The story sees the light of day for the first time on smashwords.
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