The Runaways front-woman and solo artist Cherie Currie and Fanny drummer and singer Brie Darling were ‘70s icons who got the headlines. But they didn’t always get the credit they deserved as strong women holding their own and forging new ground in a rock & roll playing field then dominated by old-school masculine mores.
While Currie and Darling had a mutual admiration society, the two didn’t meet until 2017, when Darling reached out to Currie to contribute vocals to Fanny Walked the Earth, a reunion album from the trailblazing Fanny, the first all-female band signed to a major label (Reprise) in 1969. Now fierce friends and cool collaborators, they’re singing together on the new album, The Motivator, a 12-song album featuring nine classic covers by bands including T. Rex, The Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Wonder, and John Lennon, plus three powerful new originals, including the tough rocker “Too Bruised” and the topical “This Is Our Time”. The tour is set for late 2019.
“I loved her soulful style, her sultry voice. I’m not a person who holds back. I get really excited when I meet somebody I like,” recalls Currie. “I told Dave [Darling, Brie’s husband/and Grammy-nominated Cherie Currie & Brie Darling producer] that the only problem with the Fanny Walks the Earth record is I wanted to hear more!”
Darling picks up the story: “That’s how this whole thing came about: For the Fanny session, Cherie walked in saying, “Man, I just love your voice. You’re the bomb.” That made me feel good about saying, down the line, ‘Hey, do you wanna do something together?’ Never in a million years would I have thought I was gonna ask Cherie Currie, who’s like way up there on the ladder, to do a record with me!”
The two Californians, who grew up with similar influences and worked tirelessly to overcome similar obstacles in their pioneering all-women groups, vibed quickly. “It was truly collaboration,” says Currie, who actually was ready to leave the music biz after years of grueling touring. “With us, there’s no ego, no push-pull. I don’t stand for that. I grew up with it, and I’m fed up with it. I’m into lifting people up, not putting people down.”
The covers chosen mostly share—unintentionally—a socio-political resonance that’s as relevant today as when the songs were written. Whittling down the selections from a huge group of favorites, the songs chose their singers. “Lennon’s ‘Gimme Some Truth’ was not one I was screaming for until I heard Brie’s scratch vocal on it; and I said, ‘That’s it. That’s done,’” says Currie. Darling, likewise came to love it: “At first, the song seemed so one-sided, so kind of fed up, angry. But as I sang it, with it’s intensity, especially with what’s going on in the country today, I got it, and loved singing it.” The poignant take on the Hollies version of “He Ain’t Heavy” was one Cherie brought to the table plus she wrote a poetic addition, “a beautiful counterpoint piece that we used as a background part.”
“The original album concept was that Brie was going to sing a few, I’d sing a few, and we’d back each other up,” furthers Currie. “But I knew our voices really work well together. On T. Rex’s ‘The Motivator,’ Brie did a great soulful rock scratch vocal but maybe I have more of a tough rock quality to my voice, so I think Dave decided I was going to sing it. But in my head I heard a duet, me doing the first verse, her on the second verse….and that started the dialog of using our voices together as a concept. Our voices complement each other, so we decided we should share the majority of these songs, because it makes them better.”
Producer Dave Darling says, “It’s extremely rare to have two such powerful vocalists in the same band. Cherie’s a steam roller and Brie’s a flame thrower. That just doesn’t happen!”
“It just fell together like it was liquid,” Darling agrees of Cherie Currie & Brie Darling. “Though some of the songs were tough, because we didn’t want to do these legendary songs like a bar band, we didn’t wanna do ‘Gimme Shelter’ like the Stones did, so we had a little fun with it.” Also fun was bringing in a host of family and friends to do backups, including Currie’s sister, actress Sondra Currie, her ex-husband, actor Robert Hays; friends, Susan Olsen of Brady Bunch fame and actress/director, Allison Scagliotti. Darling’s brother, Henry Berry is on “He Ain’t Heavy”; and brother Phil Berry does a guitar solo on the Kinks tune “Do it Again” while her sister, Rory Berry Bishop plays drums on Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air.” Patti Quatro—Suzi’s sister and a member of Fanny—plays guitar and sings on “For What It’s Worth.”
While there’s at least one female musician on every song, with Darling playing drums on nearly all the cuts, everyone had to earn their place. “We don’t wanna use women musicians just because they’re women,” says Darling. “I don’t think that helps the women’s cause. You have to be good at what you do. To make it in this really hard business, be the best one in the room. Earn it, just like anybody.”
If the covers resonated lyrically, so too do the originals. “I feel strongly about what’s going on with women,” Darling states. “So the song ‘This is Our Time’ is not only about what’s going on with women, but it’s also what’s going on with Cherie and me. Both of us having been in these girl groups who never really got their day in the sun. I’m not bitter about it, but this song is very intentional on my part. I said, ‘listen—this is about women. This is about you and me. This is our time, so let’s take it.’”
For the live shows, Currie and Darling have deep catalogs to draw on in addition to the recorded work on The Motivator. Currie, a renowned chainsaw artist, did two legendary studio albums with the Runaways, plus solo albums, including one with twin sister Marie Currie. Her most recent, 2015’s Reverie, features Runaways bandmate Lita Ford, produced by her son, Jake Hays and original Runaways producer, the late Kim Fowley. Reverie was Fowley’s final production. Currie wrote a powerful memoir, Neon Angel, which inspired the 2010 biopic, The Runaways (executive produced by Joan Jett with Dakota Fanning as Currie) fleshed out both Currie’s story and The Runaways mythos.
Darling, also known as Brie Howard, has recorded as drummer, singer and writer with Fanny in the ‘70s, as well as with the bands American Girls in the mid ‘80s and the Boxing Gandhis, who have put out three albums since the mid-90s. As a backing vocalist, and percussionist, Darling played with or has written songs for the Pointer Sisters, Jimmy Buffett, ELO, Ringo Starr, Carole King and more.
Darling and Currie both have acted in several films. Currie starred with Jodie Foster in the 1980 film Foxes and Brie starred in the film Android, opposite Klaus Kinski. Brie’s creativity also extends to the kitchen: Darling is a cake artist who won her episode on the Food Network’s Cake Wars.
Both women feel fortunate that Dave Darling produced the record. “Dave’s a flippin’ genius.” says Currie. “It’s no small feat to take such classic songs and breathe new life into them. I’ve never had an easier time making a record.”
Cherie Currie & Brie Darling’s The Motivator is the end product of years of groundbreaking musical and personal work. But it’s also a new beginning, an album infused with a power, joy and enthusiasm that was forged—and doubled—thanks to the inspiring and exceptional Currie and Darling collaboration.