Kim Gordon (contributed by Jennifer Malone)

Kim Gordon was born in Rochester, NY but was raised in the Los Angeles area from the age of 5. Her father was Dean of Faculty at UCLA and she was able to attend a progressive school associated with the university. She is a graduate of Otis College of Art and Design, where her focus was fine art. She moved to New York City to make her way in the art scene and ended up drawn to the No-Wave music scene that to her, seemed a step beyond punk in that it was really deconstructing rock music and its myths completely. She had never played an instrument before but that was not a detriment in an experimental scene that focused more on playing with notions of noise and melody to break open constructs. The nihilism and freedom of the anti-form was attractive to Gordon and so she picked up a guitar and began exploring her voice as an instrument. In 1981, she formed Sonic Youth with her partner, Thurston Moore, and Lee Ranaldo.

Sonic Youth carved a niche for themselves as innovators and outsider musicians, who wrote beautiful and often haunting melodies that they would layer with noise and feedback that would create its own instrument and atmosphere. The band had a prolific output when combining all 15 studio albums, seven extended plays, 21 singles, three compilation albums, 16 soundtrack appearances, and 46 music videos. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore were married in 1983 as the band was getting their sound together. They released several small label records and were signed to Punk/Indie giant SST Records in 1986, and put out Evol, which gave them their first critical acclaim, followed by Sister, and then they moved over to Enigma, for whom they recorded classic and haunting double-LP, Daydream Nation, which was in every very cool kid’s collection in 1988. They made their major-label debut and their first foray into mainstream success with 1990’s Goo, which featured breakout single, “Kool Thing”, a compilation with Public Enemy’s Chuck D. Much of the record deals with female empowerment, pop culture, and the underground music scene that was about to explode. Sonic Youth embarked on a tour in 1991 with Nirvana, Babes In Toyland, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, and Gunball. A documentary of the tour potently called, “The Year That Punk Broke”, chronicled the quickly changing popular music scene. Sonic Youth was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as a part of the scene that spawned Grunge and Riot Grrrl. Gordon became known as the epitome of cool and she became a fixture of fashion magazines. She started her own streetwear clothing line, X-Girl. Gordon produced the debut record By
Hole (Courtney Love), Pretty On the Inside, and co-directed the video for The Breeders’ hit, “Cannonball’, with Spike Jonez. Sonic Youth put out another two commercially successful albums in quick succession; 1994’s Experimental, Jet Set, Trash, and No Star, which featured lo-fi single “Bull In The Heather” that is one of the finest examples of Kim’s effective and moody-sounding alto, and 1995’s Washing Machine. Gordon was also active in side projects, Harry Crews, Free Kitten and The Supreme Indifference with Jim O’Rourke.

Gordon and Moore split up in 2009 and dissolved Sonic Youth the same year. Gordon began exhibiting paintings again and founded limited-edition fashion label, Mirror/Dash, which was inspired by daughter (with Moore), Coco. She has appeared as an actor in TV and film projects, including Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstien’s Portlandia. In 2015, she released a memoir, “Girl In a Band”. Her
experimental band, Glitterbust, performs regularly. Gordon’s first solo art exhibition was in 2019 at the Andy Warhol Museum titled, “Kim Gordon: Lo-Fi Glamour. She has inspired countless young women in and out of the music industry and is an icon of pop culture. As Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys said, “wherever Kim ends up, she is the coolest person in the room”.

Song Pick: Bull in the Heather

What's Next?

Your journey is complete!  Check out the albums that are in this crate.  There are some amazing women here and throughout the store.  When checking out today, if you tell us “Women Rock!”, then we will give you 10% off of any woman artist you are purchasing.  Want the discount on other merchandise?  Then tell us the woman who contributed to making it awesome.  Example: Buying a Pixies record?  Get 10% off by telling us that Kim Deal is amazing and the Pixies were great BECAUSE of her.  You get the idea.

Had so much fun that you want to continue the journey? To complete last year’s scavenger hunt (which was cut short due to Covid), head over to the Gospel section and find the yellow WOW card.  Scan this to go for extra credit points! 

Highlights of Kim Gordon

Born: April 28, 1953
Years Active: 1981 – Present
Instrument(s): Guitar, Voice, Visual Art, Fashion
Genre(s): Alt Rock, Experimental, Art Rock, No-Wave, Noise Pop, Grunge, Riot Grrrl
Notable Songs: “100%”, “Kool Thing”, “Teen Age Riot”, “Bull In the Heather”, “Superstar”

Technical Innovations

Sonic Youth famously customized their instruments, amps, and pedals to the point where when their gear was stolen in 1999, they were not able to play their catalog of music the same way ever again.

Artists/Acts She Influenced

Courtney Love, Kathleen Hanna, Sofia Coppola (Director), Riosin Murphy

About Jennifer Malone

Jennifer is a four-time School of Rock AllStar director and has served on content and innovation boards at the corporate level over her many years with the company. Jennifer is a voice teacher who loves coaching students of all levels to perform at their personal best through personalized training, biodynamics and stage prep. She performs regularly with the bands 1976 and Hedgehog and the Fox. She has a long performing resume that includes musical theater, jazz, roots, rock and punk. She lives in Oak Park with her husband and two kids and spends her free time volunteering and engaged in social justice.