An Homage to the Women of Rock

I have been meaning for a long time to pay tribute to the rock’n’roll mamas, those who are not content to be eye-candy, humming backing vocals in the background. This is a homage to the Women of Rock.

You can listen to a Spotify playlist of these bands here.

Aretha Franklin

Originally a gospel singer, she became The Queen of Soul, no mean feat in the days before the Civil Rights movement. She is of course unforgettable in the Blues Brothers, where she sings her hit RESPECT (originally an Otis Redding song).

Janis Joplin

A leading star both at Monterey and Woodstock, she stood out as a charismatic female band-leader in a era dominated by macho rock’n’roll antiques. She could out-drink and out-boogie them all too, any day.

Patti Smith

“(…)an American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses.Called the “Godmother of Punk”,[3] her work was a fusion of rock and poetry.”

What can you add to that ?

source: Wikipedia

Joan Jett (The Runaways, the Black Hearts)

I hesitated in including her in this list, but decided that she was important as the symbol of an era. Considered a fraud by the punks and reviled for her commercial success, Joan Jett is none the less considered an original riot grrl and has collaborated with producer Kim Fowley and members of Bikini Kill, Babes in Toyland and L7. An impressive résumé.

Nina Hagen

A child prodigy opera singer, she escaped from East Germany to become an international rock star.

(…)”she arrived in London during the height of the punk rock movement. Hagen was quickly taken up by a circle that included The Slits and Sex Pistols.” (source: Wikipedia).

What I love most about Nina Hagen is how she refuses labels and tears down the walls between pop, rock, punk and reggae. I also like that, unlike Madonna, she has refused to be replaced by a plastic cyborg copy of herself.

Debbie Harry (Blondie)

A peroxide blond with a punk attitude and a talent for pop hits, Debbie Harry is everything there is to like about the eighties.

PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey is one of the most accomplished and original song writers of rock music. She carried the punk flame well into the 90’s, before returning to her more folksy roots while crafting her own raw rock sound.

Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth, Body/Head)

Few bands have been more influential than Sonic Youth, of which Kim Gordon was a founding member. Not one for half-measures, her music has always been on the more extreme side of alternative rock, using unusual tunings and wall-of-sound droney distortions. While more quiet, her current project Body/Head is no less uncompromising.

Like Patti Smith or Kathleen Hanna, she is not only a musician but works with multiple media, including video, poetry and photography.

Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees)

Not satisfied with repeating the stereotypes of the angry punk scene, Siouxsie used samplers and synthetisers to create “post-punk” music, blending punk surrealism, sonic experimentation and catchy melodies.

Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)

Raised as a hippie vegetarian, Hynde became one of the most famous figures of punk culture, although, like Blondie, she is at the crossroads of rock and mainstream pop. Your dad probably had a picture of her in his locker. To this day she is a vocal activist against cruelty to animals.


Often seen as icons for the riot grrrl movement, L7 are actually a heavy metal band from California, closer to Black Flag than the Seattle grunge scene (see below). However, they can play much better than most riot grrrl bands, and sound louder than most of the big boys, which makes them cult to this day.

Babes in Toyland

From the grunge scene of the Pacific North-West, Babes In Toyland probably had the baddest, meanest sound of all riot grrrl bands.

Le Tigre / MEN

Started by Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Johanna Fateman, the band mixed electroclash, hip hop sampling and grungy guitars to create a unique sound. They are considered an openly pro-feminist band and their songs often pay tribute to other female artists. Two of the band’s members now play in MEN.

Melissa auf Der Maur

After playing bass in Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, she started her solo career in 2004, touring as opening act for no other than A Perfect Circle.

Katie Jane Garside (Queen Adreena, Ruby Throat)

After cutting her teeth as the singer for grungy rock outfit Daisy Chainsaw and touring with Hole and Mudhoney, Katie Jane took the rock scene by storm as the leader of Queen Adreena. She now focuses mainly on Ruby Throat, an experimental / folk project with guitarist Chris Whittingham.

Tairrie B (Tura SatanaMy Ruin)

A former rapper (weird, huh ?), Tairrie B is probably the most impressive metal singer I have ever seen live, rock solid and no compromises.

Brody Dalle (The Distillers)

Her unique raspy rock signing and punk energy make her one bad-ass front woman. Coral fang is one of my favourite albums, ever.

Karen O (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Known for her incredible energy on stage and her unique fashion sense, Karen O is one of the most original rock singers alive.

Shannon Wright

Is it thanks to Patti Smith that New York is so rich in female rock talent ? From folk to raw noisy punk, her discography is like a map of the city.

Amanda Palmer (The Dresden Dolls)

Amanda Palmer’s feminist punk attitude, furious playing style and impressive vocal range make her unique in a landscape of predictable rock stereotypes. The Dresden Dolls, a duo with prodigy drummer Brian Viglione, took cabaret punk out of small Brooklyn cafés and into the spotlight.

She plays the piano like a flying V and sings like the house is on fire. Her romantic, bipolar, tragi-comic stage persona is unforgettable – that’s just the way the operation made her.

Also, she is married to cult british writer Neil Gaiman.

While she still plays occasional Dresden Dolls shows with Brian Viglione, she now tours mostly with her own band, the Grand Theft Orchestra.

Lisa Kaukela (The Bellrays)

a self-decribed”hight octane rock’n’roll” band, The Bellrays’ music is a heady blend of garage, blues and hard rock.

Patricia Day (The HorrorPops)

Because rock’n’roll is not just about feminism and experimental performance art.

If you’re not into psychobilly, you might not have heard about Danish rockers The HorrorPops (or Day’s husband’s band, Nekromantix).

Famous for the way she wields a white double-bass, she haunts the wet dreams of many a wannabe Brian Setzer.

As he would say : “That girl is red hot”.

Emma Richardson (Band Of Skulls)

Do you know how hard it is to rock the bass AND sing ? Emma Richardson can do both with brio. Band Of Skulls is everything great about british rock, with clear Led Zep’ influences and contagious riffs. Their first album, baby darling Dollface Honey, release din 2009, is a masterpiece.

Emily Armstrong (Dead Sara)

I wanted to end this article with a newcomer, who I hope to see rise to fame.If you haven’t heard their single Wethearman, turn up the volume and click here :


Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.