Movie review: 'Fanny: The Right to Rock' will make you an instant fan

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 08 2022 08:44 AM

A scene from 'Fanny: The Right to Rock'
A scene from 'Fanny: The Right to Rock'

Fanny was an all-female band formed by Filipino-American sisters June and Jean Millington with fellow Fil-Am drummer Brie Brandt. By the time they were signed by Reprise Records by producer Richard Perry in 1969, the Millington sisters were joined by drummer Alice de Buhr and keyboardist Nickey Barclay. In the first five years of the 1970s, they released five studio albums, and had two top 40 hits, "Charity Ball" (#40, 1971) and "Butter Boy" (#29, 1975).

Fanny boldly defied all popular conventions from the late 1960s when they were starting out, until they became more famous in the 1970s. In those times, female musicians playing instruments as a band were a very rare breed, and met much resistance from the male-dominated music industry. Unfortunately, even before "Butter Boy" peaked at #29 in April 1975, Fanny broke up as a band just when they were at the cusp of hitting it bigger. 

Aside from being all-female, having Asian-American and lesbians in the band made things more difficult for Fanny to break through in the early 1970s, yet they did albeit short-lived. 

Forty years after their break up, Fil-Ams June, Jean and Brie, undeterred by age and illness, are carrying forth the legacy of Fanny with their spin-off band called Fanny Walked the Earth. Their ethnic pride had inspired a new breed of Fil-Am female musicians, and will surely make this film more resonant with Filipino audiences. 

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers like Bonnie Raitt and Joe Elliott (of Def Leppard), as well as John Sebastian (of the Lovin' Spoonfuls), Kate Pierson (of the B-52s), Kathy Valentine (of the Go-Go's), Cherie Currie (of the Runaways), Earl Slick (of David Bowie's band) among others, all paid their tributes to Fanny. Their presence certainly added more credibility to the film, about the genuineness of Fanny's pioneering influence in rock and roll in general.

I admit that at first I did not plan to watch this documentary made by American-Canadian filmmaker Bobby Jo Hart since I never heard about Fanny nor their music at all. Fortunately the music history buff in me prevailed and I gave this film a chance, and thankfully so. Hart had told Fanny's story in a most engaging manner, enough to hook even those who did not know anything them. 

After watching it, I became an instant fan, promptly downloading their music catalog on my Spotify. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."