Styrene's Scream, R.I.P.

I first encountered "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" on one of those punk compilations pervasive in the early '90s. To a miserable 14-year-old trying desperately to identify with something, anything, most of the songs cluttering the CD seemed like medicine -- strangely aggressive, somewhat boring initiation rites on the way to bona-fide punkrockerdom.

And then there was POLY STYRENE. I still remember the first time I heard her voice. "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard," she delivered, sounding both young and perilously jaded. And then she started screaming.

Oh, the majesty! Her glorious yells -- like nothing else I'd heard, have heard since - broke something. What was bondage? Why was she so mad about it? Who cared? I wanted in. I had no idea who she was, what she looked like, or where she came from, but I knew she was dangerous and she was free.

She screamed so loud that her voice echoed across decades and continents. It went forth and multiplied. It was a benediction, a balm, a clarion call. It conjured the future, an army of all-girl punk rock bands, another wave of feminism.

And now the legend -- the absolute legend -- is dead at 53 from a disease that claims tens of thousands of women every year. Breast cancer, up yours. We'll miss her.

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