Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day, an annual global day dedicated to celebrating and empowering the women in your life.
This year, the campaign theme for IWD 2022 is #BreakTheBias, which inspired us to take a look back over the trailblazing women in music who did just that and changed the path of rock n’roll in the process. Of course, there are many more artists who belong on this list – let us know who you would add in the comments!
1. Tina Turner
Tina Turner is one of the toughest women on the planet. Her early career with her then-husband, Ike Turner conjures as a survivor story beyond belief. After enduring years of abuse at Ike’s hand, Tina channelled those experiences into power anthems that have made her a literal symbol of strength. In 1989, at the age of 44, she became the oldest female artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart with her first number one hit, What’s Love Got To Do With It.
2. Suzi Quatro
She's the original wild one, an icon of rock rebellion and one hell of a bass player! Pint-sized power-house, Suzi Quatro came bursting out of the 70s like no female artist before. Instead of channelling her Motown pop singing peers, Quatro took her lead from Elvis, in particular his famous ’68 Comeback Special leather jumpsuit. However, unlike Elvis, Suzi doesn’t just sing, she leads the performance with a bass that practically dwarfs her and plays it like an afterthought to her high energy performances
There's no question of the impact Suzi Quatro has had on rock and roll, fashion, women and so much more, but hats off to her for also setting the bar impossibly high as a consummate pro-musician while she was doing it.
3. Joan Jett
To see the impact of Suzi Quatro’s influence, we don’t have to go any further than Joan Jett. Inspired by the wild one, leather-clad look and all, Joan Jett made rock ’n roll her life’s mission, hitting out in the first all-female band at just 16, to following it up with a massively successful solo career, all before she was 21.
4. Kate Bush
Speaking of prodigal teens, we can’t go past Kate Bush. At just 19, she became the first female artist to EVER top the UK charts with a self-penned hit with her debut single, Wuthering Heights in 1978. But she was just getting started. Follow up singles like Babooshka, Wow and Running Up That Hill (Deal With God) would keep her in the charts for years to come. From her songwriting style, themes and delivery, to her wonderfully weird choreography, Kate Bush defines originality in every sense of the word.
5. Alanis Morissette
And, still on the topic of artists who smashed their way to the top of the charts before they were old enough to buy a drink in America, brings us to Alanis Morissette. At just 21, Alanis topped the charts with eloquently biting smash hit, You Oughta Know from her album, Jagged Little Pill which tore through 1995 like the sharpest breathe of fresh air known to man – and remains one of the biggest albums of all time. Fierce, vulnerable and entirely unapologetic.
"I had a really big agenda: my agenda was to be self-expressed and to be as authentic as I possibly could, and I wouldn't stop until that happened.”
7. Joni Mitchell
While their styles may differ, it’s easy to see how Alanis’ sharp-tongued approach to songwriting may have been inspired by the quietly outspoken Joni Mitchell. Joni is a force of fearless honesty that is wonderfully personified by her candid lyrics, which serve as an open door to Joni’s heart. This sort of captivating honesty was far from commonplace among Mitchell’s female peers of the late 60s and 70s, challenging the formulaic pop themes of her era, and the male artists Mitchell famously held court with (like Crosby, Still & Nash and Neil Young).
“My early work is kind of fantasy, which is why I sort of rejected it. I started scraping my own soul more and more and got more humanity in it. It scared the singer-songwriters around me; the men seemed to be nervous about it, almost like Dylan plugging in and going electric. Like, ‘Does this mean we have to do this now?’ But over time, I think it did
8. Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders)
That voice. That style. Those songs. Chrissie Hynde doesn’t apologise for being certain of her specialty. The fearless frontwoman put her band Pretenders on the map with 1979’s Brass In Pocket. With unshakable confidence, the song is unapologetically self-assured, yet never gets aggressive enough to break its charming spell, effectively doubling down on its powerfully sassy allure. And it truly set the tone for Hynde’s entire career that has seen her remain an effortlessly cool constant on the rock scene, going on five decades now!
9. Stevie Nicks
Fleetwood Mac’s 1997 Rumours LP is one of the greatest classic albums of all time. From the album, the single “Dreams” was penned by the fearless Stevie Nicks, of unmatched status among rock royalty, in just 10 minutes. The timeless smash speaks straight to the hearts of generations, returning to the charts time and time again, recently as last year.
In 1981, Nicks followed up her Fleetwood Mac success with the epic solo smash Edge of Seventeen from her solo album, Bella Donna which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and cemented her iconic status. In 2018, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – as both a member of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist.
All hail Stevie.
Listen to Stevie Nicks on Spotify:
Listen to Stevie Nicks on Apple Music: