Lilith Fair was a pioneering, all-female music festival prominently headlined by singer-songwriters. Tool is an influential, all-male prog-metal band – probably the last act you’d expect to read in Glamour‘s comprehensive oral history of the fest. But singer Maynard James Keenan offered a memorable quote in the piece, recalling that he asked Tool’s booking agent to offer their services at the inaugural 1997 event.
“He did. They declined,” Maynard said. “I wanted the ‘thank you but no thank you’ letter to frame. Never got it.”
Instead, Lilith Fair proceeded with its groundbreaking line-up of female performers. Founder Sarah McLachlan headlined the festival along with Sheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Jewel, Paula Cole, Fiona Apple, Emmylou Harris, Indigo Girls and Natalie Merchant, among others.
But a different high-profile male performer did wind up performing at the third event, in 1999, when Prince (then known as “The Artist”) assisted on an all-star jam of Sheryl Crow’s “Every Day Is a Winding Road.” McLachlan’s drummer and then-husband, Ashwin Sood, recalled assembling a “super-band” in Crow’s dressing room.
“I get into the dressing room, and there he is in a gold lamé suit from head to toe,” Sood said. “He’s wearing gold seven-inch heels. And Sheryl introduces me: ‘This is Ashwin. Ashwin, this is The Artist.’ He looks at me, and the only thing that comes out of his mouth is ‘You must be The Husband.'”
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McLachlan told Glamour that she hoped the all-female fest – which also staged a final, less-successful event in 2010 – would combat sexism in the industry. “The first time I felt sexism was the pushback from radio stations [in the mid-Nineties],” she said. “They’d say, ‘We added Tori Amos this week, so we can’t add you.’ Or: ‘We added Tracy Chapman this week, so we can’t add you.” And I’m like, ‘We’re doing completely different [things]!”
Meshell Ndegeocello reflected that the fest offered a “communal” atmosphere that differed from her previous experiences onstage. “I didn’t have anyone barking at me at sound check,” she said. “I know that sounds stereotypical. But maybe it’s [also] because Sarah is Canadian. It was just like a really chill vibe, you know? I’m sure if I did a festival with Courtney Love as the head, that would be a different vibe.”