It is no secret that rock and roll music has been male-dominated for its fifty-plus years of existence. Some of the best bands we grew up with have been mostly composed of men. Perhaps this is because rock culture reinforces stereotypical male behavior: loud, aggressive, and socially dominant tendencies. However, these barriers haven’t stopped females from rising to success in rock music. Here are five of my favorite female-fronted rock bands.
Formed in the early 70’s in the Seattle/British Columbia area by sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson, Heart set the tone for the upcoming music scene that bred bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The group experienced immediate success with their debut album, “Dreamboat Annie,” which featured hit singles, “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You”. The band continued to be extremely prominent throughout the 1980’s all the way until 1990. After a short hiatus, Heart got back together and released a comeback album in 2004. They still tour to this day.
2. Fleetwood Mac
In terms of combining musical talent across both genders, it doesn’t get any better than Fleetwood Mac. Although the original lineup had a hard time experiencing success, the band immediately became a mainstream success story when couple, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined in 1974. The group recorded hits like “Gypsy,” “Landslide,” and “Go Your Own Way” throughout the 1980’s. President Bill Clinton famously used “Don’t Stop” as his campaign song in 1992. Fleetwood Mac continues to tour, and are currently working on a new album to be released before a world tour celebrating the band’s 50th anniversary.
3. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Simply put, Joan Jett was ready to kick some ass from day one. As a leader of the feminist punk movement, she was never afraid to express herself and challenge social norms. As a female in punk, she was never afraid to take center stage, rock out on a guitar solo, and scream into the microphone. Her most famous hit, “I Love Rock n Roll” is a simple ode to the life and culture we all love, and has lived as an anthem for over 30 years.
As the name suggests, this band is led by a blonde. Debbie Harry and romantic partner Chris Stein formed Blondie in 1974, but not as a traditional rock and roll band. Rather, Blondie was one of the first bands to introduce new wave music to the American scene. “New Wave” was a genre that looked to create an innovative sound that incorporated unique elements, such as electronic music, disco, synthpop, and experimentation. Through this, Blondie released the timeless classics “One Way or Another,” “Call Me,” and “Heart of Glass”.
5. Janis Joplin
Perhaps the most widely-known name on this list, Janis Joplin paved the way for future female icons, including many of the ones described above. A child of the hippie movement, she made her career out of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Joplin started her career with the band, Big Brother and Holding Company, but broke away from the group in 1968 to start working towards solo success. During her solo career, she performed at notable festivals such as Woodstock 1969 and the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Her stage presence was described as “electric,” as can be seen in this performance of her hit “Cry Baby.” Unfortunately, drugs were a significant part of Joplin’s career, and ultimately took her life in 1970.
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