Though disappointing, it was not surprising that even in the mid-to-late 1990s there were concert promoters who didn't see the viability of promoting two female performers on the same ticket. This confounded the Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan and she sought to dispel the idea that women couldn't cooperate creatively and professionally on the big stage.
The Lilith Fair music festival was officially born with the first show at The Gorge Amphitheatre in George, WA on July 5, 1997, and more than 130 tour stops followed through the summers of 1998 and 1999. “The festival is named after the legendary Lilith, who refused to obey Adam and instead bolted from the Garden of Eden to search the Earth for adventure,” Donna Freydkin explained in her 1998 CNN article about the festival. It was a bold declaration from McLachlan, evincing her dedication to this formidable three-stage tour that would traverse the United States and Canada.
Initially, Lilith Fair lined its roster with top tier talent from the rock and post-modern folk genres, but quickly evolved to showcase artists from other genres, whether they be contemporary, established or emergent figures. A listing of artists featured across the festival’s peak three-year span included McLachlan, Erykah Badu, Paula Cole, Missy Elliott, Sheryl Crow, Nelly Furtado, Lisa Loeb, Bic Runga, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, India.Arie, Jewel, Pat Benatar, Suzanne Vega, Queen Latifah, Natalie Merchant, and Meshell Ndegeocello, among dozens of others.
A critical and commercial bonanza that also raised millions for charity, Lilith Fair was most importantly a convincing refutation of the “mansplaining” that dogged McLachlan's inaugural efforts to organize a show around more than one woman. Twenty years later, the thrust behind Lilith Fair is still relevant, notwithstanding the 2010 attempt to resurrect the festival that unfortunately went awry. Comprised of 75 tracks culled from select festival performers’ discographies circa the mid to late ‘90s, the playlist below only grazes the depth and ambit of the figures assembled who made Lilith Fair one of the major flashpoints in popular music in terms of resetting the game in female artists’ favor.