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Lady you should know about: Wendy O. Williams

November 23, 2010

Where to even start with Wendy O. Williams? She is definitely one of the most groundbreaking artists of our time – if not the most. She’s best known for fronting the Plasmatics, but she was also an artist, daredevil, film and TV actor, animal rights activist and even worked for a time as a macrobiotic cook!

Williams was born in 1949 and left high school to travel around the world. In 1976 she arrived in New York City and met Rod Swenson, who would become her life-long partner and collaborator. Williams and Swenson formed the Plasmatics, an ever-changing lineup of musicians centered around Williams and guitarist Wes Beech, with Swenson acting as the band’s manager. the band embarked on a career of outlandish performances that often became violent spectacles, status quo-challenging statements and a trademark punk-metal sound.

The Plasmatics became huge in the NYC punk underground in the late ’70s and were a mainstay of the CBGB’s lineup. They eventually started attracting larger audiences, drawing famous fans like Gene Simmons of KISS, and signed to Capitol Records (who later dropped them) in 1982. Williams’ unpredictable and chaotic performances – one of which resulted in her being arrested for obscenity and beaten – included chainsaws, nudity and explosives, even driving a car through a wall of televisions for a video. Williams embarked on a solo career after the band parted ways in the mid-’80s and recorded a duet of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” with Lemmy of Motorhead (which you just might hear on the show tomorrow…). Williams and Swenson eventually moved to Connecticut, where Williams committed suicide (after two previous attempts) in 1998.

Through her music, attitude, appearance, lyrics and articulate outspokenness Williams questioned and challenged how we perceive just about everything from femininity and violence to materialism and music genres. And for that, she is a lady you should know about.

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