Linda Perry Thinks You're Relevant

My name is Zach Moldof. Linda hired me to help her with social media earlier this year. After I earned her trust I took on more responsibilities and became her brand director. Now I find myself wondering how to respond to the recent uproar regarding Linda’s comment that Sheila E. is not relevant to Billboard’s requirements for a Prince tribute. Linda was not talking about the relevancy of Sheila E’s art, or Sheila E’s relevance as an artist. Linda pointed out that Billboard’s parameters for relevance exclude Sheila, and people started to attack Linda for it. I’ve learned very quickly that Linda is not someone who is likely to pipe down. But the act of speaking out does not define Linda, because her ego doesn’t get a rise out of being in conflict, or causing controversy. Speaking out is merely the vehicle by which she takes on a role of responsibility, and responsibility and accountability define Linda.

When you’re outspoken it’s very easy to have your words turned against you. But, isn’t that the nature of being outspoken in the first place? The person who speaks out does so because the majority are silent about some injustice. The person who speaks out is not part of the majority. In the case of the Billboard awards Linda was merely pointing out that Billboard’s focus is on charts and the apex of commerce, not art and the apex of cultural relevance. Linda called out the lack of responsibility--to the creative community--on Billboard’s part, and somehow became accountable for the values created by the practices of a privately run business that distills its own zeitgeist from commerce.  The person who speaks out recognizes that the way things are is not the way things have to be. When you’re the person who speaks out, the one who is disrupting a system of power, you become a target. And make no mistake, there are few targets bigger than Linda Perry.

Linda Perry is a gay self-employed woman who owns and operates her own business. She operates one of very few female-run recording studios in the world, and has created a space where women--and men, but especially women--who create music can be comfortable and respected. She is well-respected and revered around the world as an icon. And yet in 2016 in the United States she is a target on the internet. I don’t think it has much to do with Linda, instead I think it has a lot to do with the latent fears of a dying institution--an institution that would like you to believe that straight white men should run the world and live rich while everyone else does their bidding. When people look at Linda and see someone to belittle, or someone to cast judgement upon I can’t help but conclude the problems lie solely with those who levy accusations. Unless you want to see the old guard continue to oppress women, tell us homosexuality is a sin, and treat all people as if they are inferior to whites there is no reason you should be disparaging Linda Perry. If you believe that the empowerment of women is important and that equality for all is the only justice then you should look at Linda Perry and see inspiration.

Since I started working with Linda I have seen her do nothing but support other artists big and small. I’ve seen Linda slip a huge wad of cash to someone in desperate need, and I’ve seen Linda track a session with a full band--to tape--for free because she believes in an artist who doesn’t have a budget like that. There are dozens of people who have careers in the music industry because Linda provided crucial support at a critical moment, and you would be hard-pressed to find many artists who haven’t been influenced by her in some regard. From engineers and session players, to artists signed to labels, and people behind the scenes who run those labels, Linda is a unique pillar of support and empowerment in an often loveless industry.

Linda has hundreds of finished songs sitting on hard drives. Considering the perpetual earning potential of a hit song it’s no stretch to say that there are hundreds of millions of dollars worth of songs sitting unused in Linda’s studio. Linda could be sending out 10 of these songs every week to 10 different artists getting 10 checks and never touch another piece of gear for the rest of her life. Instead, she brings people to her studio, and spends time being with them. She spends time listening to them, and she spends time showing them an endless stream of possible beginnings. She works with them to not only make a song, but often to help define their sound, or provide a much-needed assist as they seek to make changes in their career.

When you show up to Linda’s studio--whether you’re a session musician playing 2 bars on a track or an A list celebrity working on an album--she’ll have refreshments on hand. If there isn’t a meal waiting for you she’ll offer one to you, and everyone gets the same tour of the space. Linda will ask you how you’re doing and she really wants to know, and if she picks up on something she’ll keep asking you questions until you come clean about whatever you’ve been holding in. The ratio of visitors who do cry to those who don’t is radically askew and it does not lean towards dry eyes. Linda has a gift. She’s been broken down so bad that she knows pain and suffering in such miniscule detail that you can’t hide it from her, and when she knows you’re suffering she wants to help you feel better.

I grew up in incredible circumstances because my father was a criminal defense attorney to some of the most dangerous people in the world. I spent most of my adult life tumbling around the country soaking up everything and everyone that life threw my way. I’ve met a lot of people, but I haven’t met many people more inspiring, caring, and genuinely supportive than Linda Perry. So it saddens me when I see people blindly buying into a sensationalized news headline that suggests Linda would belittle Sheila E. I’ve seen Linda tell an artist that a song is dull, or tell someone in very direct terms that they’re playing sloppy and they need to fix it or go home. Linda is not afraid to speak out, and she may lack some of the niceties that many people expect, but the fact of the matter is Linda supports art, and she supports women especially. For people to turn this into a debate over relevancy is absurd, and for “fans” to use it as an excuse to disparage Linda and subject her to chauvinistic discriminatory remarks is just plain disgusting. In an era when we look to the arts to help guide our society out of a time when women were not treated as equals no one should be disparaging Linda Perry. Instead, we should be celebrating her for making such massive contributions to the empowerment of women in culture. In a time when we’re doing everything we can to work towards equality for all people Linda provides a great example of how to do it.