Go-Go's, Brown named to CA Hall of Fame

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Thursday January 11, 2024
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The all-female rock band the Go-Go's were named to the California Hall of Fame. Photo: Arnold Niemanis
The all-female rock band the Go-Go's were named to the California Hall of Fame. Photo: Arnold Niemanis

The iconic all-female rock band the Go-Go's, including bi guitarist Jane Wiedlin, were named as members of the 17th class of the California Hall of Fame, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.

Former San Francisco mayor Willie L. Brown Jr., a longtime ally who authored the bill decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations when he was in the state Assembly, was also named to the class. Former governor Jerry Brown signed that bill in 1975.

The Go-Go's emerged from the sun-soaked landscapes of Southern California, shaping the sound of an era and breaking down gender barriers in the music business, a news release from Newsom's office stated.

Formed out of the Los Angeles punk scene by lead singer Belinda Carlisle and guitarist Wiedlin, the Hollywood punkettes quickly recruited lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey. Solidifying their lineup with the rhythm section of drummer Gina Schock and bassist Kathy Valentine, the band's energetic club shows and catchy songs propelled them to the forefront of the city's vibrant music scene. Despite their popularity, the male-dominated record industry refused to see the young women's potential, the release stated.

Signed to legendary IRS Records in 1981, the Go-Go's proved their doubters wrong with their debut album, "Beauty and the Beat." Fueled by the hits "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got the Beat," a fledgling MTV and non-stop touring, the band and their music were embraced by audiences around the world.

The Go-Go's became the first — and still, to date, only — all-female band to top the Billboard charts, according to the release.

"Writing their own songs, playing their instruments and persistently believing in their right to be heard, these young women not only captured the hearts of music lovers; they represented possibility and self-determination," the release stated. With follow-up albums "Vacation" (1982) and "Talk Show" (1984) and hit songs "Vacation" and "Head Over Heels," the Go-Go's continued their trailblazing course, helping define the punk-pop genre.

Their influence on generations of female musicians and countless bands is immeasurable.

After a mid-1980s breakup, the Go-Go's returned in 1990 to continue their career. A new full-length album, "God Bless the Go-Go's," was released in 2000 and a new charting single, "Club Zero," in 2020.

Former San Francisco mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. Photo: Liz Hafalia/San Francisco Chronicle  

Powerful Assembly speaker
Brown was the longest-serving speaker of the California Assembly, from 1980 to 1995. In the role he exercised unprecedented power in the legislature as the longest-serving speaker of the Assembly in state history, the release stated.

Then, as mayor of San Francisco, he refurbished and rebuilt the nation's busiest transit system, pioneered the use of bond measures to build affordable housing, and paved the way for a second campus of the University of California, San Francisco, to anchor the city's position as a center for the burgeoning field of biotechnology, according to the release.

He was also an early supporter of marriage equality, holding a domestic partner ceremony for same-sex couples at San Francisco City Hall in the late 1990s. Brown served two terms as mayor, from 1996 to 2004.

Newsom praised the inductees.

"The contributions of this newest class of the hall of fame will have an impact on California — and the nation — for generations to come," he stated. "Through their boundless qualities and trailblazing achievements, these visionaries embody the spirit of California and will continue to inspire millions more."

Added first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, "The governor and I are thrilled to welcome another spectacular group of trailblazers into the California Hall of Fame. With a penchant for challenging the status quo, these individuals wholly reflect the courageous, ambitious, and bold spirit of California, and have made an indelible mark on our state, nation, and world."

In addition to the Go-Go's and Brown, the other members of the 17th class are: Helene An, master chef and the "Mother of Fusion Cuisine;" Vinton G. Cerf, computer scientist and a father of the internet;
Ava DuVernay, visionary storyteller and award-winning filmmaker;
 Thelton E. Henderson, a revered federal judge and civil rights leader;
Los Lobos, iconic Chicano rock band; 
Cheryl Miller, legendary basketball player and sports broadcaster; 
Leon E. Panetta, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and dedicated public servant; and Brenda Way, celebrated artistic director and choreographer.

Past LGBTQ inductees to the hall include the late drag queen José Julio Sarria, drag queen and host of "RuPaul's Drag Race" RuPaul Charles, lesbian soccer star Megan Rapinoe, the late lesbian pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, the late gay Supervisor Harvey Milk, gay artist David Hockney, lesbian tennis star Billie Jean King, gay TV star George Takei, gay former San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas, and the late lesbian astronaut Sally Ride. Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger established it in 2006 in collaboration with the California Museum and his former wife, Maria Shriver.

Details on the induction ceremony will be forthcoming, the release stated.

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