Everyday, inspiring and powerful women are showing the world that they can do anything a man can, if not better and with more poise. Especially in today’s climate, the younger generation of girls need sustainable, positive role models to feel emboldened and empowered. Luckily, the negative stigma around women not being able to do whatever they are passionate about is gradually dissipating, but it is still our responsibility to give them the tools and encouragement they need.
With that being said, there have been some very tenacious women in music; there still are. As evidence, check out our articles about the greatest women rock guitarists and modern blues guitarists. But what about vocalists? Over the years, we have seen and heard some of the greatest frontwomen in rock music.
Let’s take a look at the five most pivotal women rock singers in rock and roll history.
We had to start with the “Pearl” of classic rock. Janis Joplin, in her short life on earth, had an overwhelming impact on music and showed the world what women could do for the psychedelic rock genre. Joplin grew up in Texas and was always a bit of an outcast in school. Early on, a classmate introduced her to the expansive world of blues music with artists like Bessie Smith and Lead Belly. Janis was instantly hooked and began singing rock, folk, and blues songs. She carried this passion with her in college, even modeling her style “after her blues heroines” and fully embracing what would later be known as “hippie culture,” something which Joplin would become synonymous with. She was always seen as odd or cut from a different cloth, but that is how she was able to blossom as one of the most iconic figures of her era.
After joining various bands, Joplin fell in with a generally unknown band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, a psychedelic rock band from San Francisco. They found their way on to the bill at the first notable music festival, Monterey Pop in 1967. No one had heard a voice quite like Joplin’s and fans instantly fell in love. After a couple of albums and various live shows, Joplin parted ways from the band in 1968, embarking on a widely successful solo career that landed her gigs like Woodstock, and performances with legendary musicians like Paul Butterfield, Johnny Winter, Joni Mitchell, and even Jimi Hendrix.
Janis Joplin remained unapologetically herself both in her personal and public musician lives. Her voice had an unpolished and raw quality as she would squeal out high notes and come back down to low growls. She truly had one of the most unique sounds that still has not been replicated. She is now considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time, was posthumously induced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and her albums are still sold at an impressive rate. Sadly, like a lot of her superbly talented cohorts, Joplin secured a spot in the infamous “27 Club” when she died due to an accidental heroin overdose in 1970.
You know right when that infectious guitar riff starts, you are gearing up to obnoxiously sing “I Love Rock and Roll” as the song seeps deep into your mind, where it will reside for days. The hot and awestriking Joan Marie Larkin is known for producing some of the most hard-hitting pure rock and roll songs of the 80’s.
Sporting a bold hairstyle that would become the trademark of all male glam rock musicians, Joan Jett is mostly known for her fierce attitude, booming vocals, and getting fans off their feet! The adored “Godmother of Punk” is the rebel you wouldn’t mind your daughter looking up to. She has been viewed as courageous icon for the feminist movement as she never has any qualms about who she is.
Her songs like “Cherry Bomb,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Bad Reputation,” and many more are still regarded as amazing anthems for the 80’s and the punk movement. Joan Jett know has multi-Platinum and Gold albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. At almost 60 years old, Jett remains as a cultural icon and the badass frontwoman everyone aspires to be.
What is better than fronting a highly successful and kickass rock band for forty-five years? Being in that band with your equally talented sister. Ann and Nancy Wilson were born into a military family, moving all over the country at a frequent pace. But, one thing that remained constant was music. Their parents played everything from classical to experimental electronic music. This love for music resonated with the Wilson sisters and helped cultivate a passion and later career for both of them.
Ann began playing with a band of revolving band members (and band names) in the yearly 70’s who were only playing small clubs. Finally, in 1974, when Nancy joined the group as the guitarist, the official lineup of Heart was formed. Interestingly, the band found themselves in Canada where they got huge initial recognition, which would spread to the US and the rest of the world by the late 70’s.
Ann Wilson’s command of every stage she sets foot on is spectacular, but her singing is breathtaking. Unlike many singers in general, let alone rock singers, Wilson has a large vocal range, meaning she can start at a mid-alto hum and belt with the best of the sopranos. Wilson and Heart are still highly regarded in the rock scene to this day and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
One of the best songwriters in history, “Top 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, Grammy Award winning and nominated artist, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. What do all of these outstanding accolades amount to? One of the all time greatest singers in one of the best rock bands of all time.
Stevie Nicks’ musical journey began when she teamed up with future bandmate, Lindsey Buckingham while she was a senior in high school. After writing and performing under the name Buckingham Nicks for two years, the duo received a great opportunity to join the already successful band, Fleetwood Mac, where Nicks as remained a member ever since.
The chemistry Nicks and Buckingham invoked in the rest of the member’s is exactly the spark they needed, propelling Fleetwood Mac into the worldview with the release of their successful debut album. Then, in 1977, the band released one of the best albums, and my personal favorite Fleetwood album, Rumours. Besides selling an enormous number of albums, Rumours was certified Platinum 11 times in the United Kingdom and Diamond twice in the US. Nick’s prodigy-level vocals mixed with her beautiful ability to harmonize with other singers is a main reason why the album is still regarded as a standout collection of work.
Nicks has also maintained a rich solo career, releasing 8 studio albums since 1981. Although tensions have been high, resulting in several lineup changes, Fleetwood Mac still continues to tour around the world, dazzling new and seasoned fans alike.
Known for mega-hits like “Hit Me With your Best Shot,” “Love is a Battle Field,” and “We Belong,” Pat Benatar was a popular household name throughout the 80’s. Benatar capitalized on the popularity of straight rock and roll while also delving into the lucrative pop and new wave genres.
Together with her husband (since 1982) and longtime guitarist, Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar has released twelve studio albums, garnering two multi-Platinum and Gold albums and many Billboard chart-topping hits.