April 09, 2015
Women Who Rock Part 3: America’s Top Female Performers
March is International Women’s Month. To celebrate, we’re highlighting women who rock! Each of these female performers are among the top songwriters and musicians in modern history.
Women in music are responsible for some of the best songs of all time. Whether they’re selling out stadium tours or flying slightly under the radar while influencing other artists in their genre, these female musicians have made a powerful impact on popular music.
This isn’t a complete list by any means, because there are too many women who rock to include in one short article. But each one of these female artists hold a special place in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.
1. Joni Mitchell
Roberta Joan “Joni” Mitchell is one of the greatest folk singer-songwriters of all time. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, Joni Mitchell is known for her beautiful voice, poignant lyrics, and expressive instrumentation.
Since launching her career in the 60s, Mitchell’s sound has influenced hundreds of artists. Alongside artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell was the voice of a generation of people during the civil rights movement and Vietnam.
2. Debbie Harry
Best known as the lead singer of the new wave band Blondie, Debbie Harry was a prominent fixture in the late 1970s music scene in New York before rising to mainstream popularity with hits like “Heart of Glass,” “Call Me,” and “Rapture.”
In 1981, Harry released a solo album, KooKoo, and starred in several films including John Waters’ cult classic, Hairspray. She reunited with Blondie in the 90s and has gone on to release several hit records with the band.
3. Stevie Nicks
No list of women who rock would be complete without including Stevie Nicks, one of the best-selling musical acts of all time. Starting out with the band Fleetwood Mac, Nicks eventually launched a successful solo career and has produced over 40 Top-50 hit songs. Together with Fleetwood Mac, she has sold over 140 million records.
Possessing a powerful voice and an ear for melody, Rolling Stone named Nicks one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. She is the only woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, for both her tenure with Fleetwood Mac and her solo career.
4. Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae is a true visionary artist. Bursting onto the scene in 2010 with her critically acclaimed debut album, The ArchAndroid, Monae’s music blends pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, and a dash of musical theatre performance to create one of the most unique sounds today.
An equally talented actress, Monae has also starred in powerful films including Hidden Figures and Moonlight. She has won eight Grammy Awards and the city of Boston declared October 16, 2013 to be “Janelle Monáe Day” in recognition of her artistry and social leadership.
5. Neko Case
Starting out as part of indie-pop band The New Pornographers, singer-songwriter Neko Case is one of the leading female voices in indie rock/folk. Hailing from Washington state, Case has a powerful voice that captures both sweet melodies and raw emotion. She has released five solo albums as well as numerous records with The New
Pornographers and her own band, Neko Case & Her Boyfriends. Case has been nominated for three Grammy Awards and was honored as the Female Artist of the Year at the PLUG Independent Music Awards in 2006.
6. St. Vincent
St. Vincent is the stage name of musician Annie Clark, a Grammy Award winning artist who has had two songs on NPR’s list of “200 Greatest songs by 21st Century Women.” She has also designed a signature instrument with guitar maker Ernie Bell.
With a unique sound that blends elements of indie rock with electronic, St. Vincent has often collaborated with other celebrated artists, including David Byrne and Sufjan Stevens. St. Vincent has released five albums to widespread critical acclaim.
7. Brittany Howard
Best known as the lead singer and guitarist for the Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard is a newer addition to the mainstream music world but one who is already making a tremendous impact.
Howard began playing guitar at age 13 and compliments her bluesy playing style with powerful, raw, evocative vocals. She has won four Grammy Awards (out of 11 nominations) between her solo album and her work with Alabama Shakes.
8. Karen O
One of the women who rock the most is clearly Karen O, the performing name of musician and producer Karen Lee Orzolek. As the lead vocalist for fan favorites the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O’s sound has been highly influential within the indie rock genre.
With the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O has released four studio albums and received multiple Grammy nominations and other awards. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ hit song, “Maps,” co-written by Karen O, was ranked #386 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Her first solo album, Crush Songs, was released in 2014 and followed up by a live album.
Want to learn about even more women who rock? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series!