For International Women’s Day, let’s salute the women who changed the face of music. The feminist leaders, rule breakers, rock and roll goddesses, and the women whose talent and presence made a mark on music.
Here are 10 of the greatest female front women of all time, plus some who are just starting to make a mark. (In no particular order, because how is that even possible to do?)
Joan Jett – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
“I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation” can be the mantra scream for women sick of being forced into a mold. Her power and stage presence dominate with every song she sings. And don’t forget Cherie Currie of The Runaways who fronted the huge success of the band in the era of male dominated rock.
Florence Welch – Florence and the Machine
The crazy power of Welch’s voice lifts up any song to superhero mode. ‘Dog Days are Over’ and ‘What Kind of Man’ grab and hold attention from the first striking note. The more vocally she lets loose, the better.
Janis Joplin – Big Brother and the Holding Company
Let’s face it. Janis is the face of this band, even though she was with them for only 2 years. She is forever remembered as a legend and an icon. With her signature raspy scream, who hasn’t fallen under her spell?
Courtney Love – Hole
Despite putting up with crap from Cobain fans akin to Yoko Ono, Love is a rock star. In her own right, people! Her voice is rough and bold in all the best ways. Her videos mess with female expectation, like in ‘Violet.’
Kim Gordon – Sonic Youth
Self proclaimed “fearless” singer Kim Gordon invented her own style with what she had. She broke into the industry as the epicenter of the “no wave” music scene. She snarls her way through ‘Kool Thing’ like nobody else could.
Shirley Manson – Garbage
Her lasting impact on women in music is proof of her undeniable talent. Garbage wanted her in their band after hearing her on an MTV special that aired one time only. Her raw sound never fails to strike. “Only Happy When it Rains” and “Stupid Girl” capture the feeling of a generation like very few artists can.
Stevie Nicks – Fleetwood Mac
The band was named after the men, but it was Stevie who stole the spotlight. Her honesty and emotion, combined with her power and raspy tone uplifted the music. Her signature hippy style and brilliant lyrical ability (eg. “Landslide“) made her a solo star long after the band was famous.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – Pussy Riot
A force of change as an anti-Putinist and LGBTQ activist, Nadezhda demands rights and pushes the feminist movement in Russia. She was imprisoned for two years for a guerilla performance at a church they called “hooliganism inspired by religious hatred.” The band and their activism change more than music.
Gwen Stefani – No Doubt
She is the undisputed Queen of 90’s pop-rock. Her unique style and vocals made her and the band stand out above the pack. She proved being “Just a Girl” meant being brave and loud. She continues to uplift and inspire young women in music while continuing her own career.
Dolores O’Riordan – The Cranberries
Dolores has a lot of anger, and it pours out in her music. In “Zombie” she refuses to let the troubles in Ireland sleep. Her troubled past intermingles with her vocal range in songs we can’t stop playing.
And these are some front women whose impact has built up in recent years..
Emily Haines – Metric
The lyrics alone are already insanely brilliant, then add in Haines’s voice and performance…this is why Metric is just getting started on a presumably very long career, with hits like “Help I’m Alive,” and “Gold Guns Girls.”
Laura Jane Grace – Against Me!
A great talent, and a strong activist, Grace’s “True Trans Soul Rebel’ expanded music and LGBTQ awareness within the punk music scene.
Alice Glass – Crystal Castles
Glass’ signature unpredictable vocals and unique sound built Crystal Castles into a beloved electronica band. She has now embarked on a solo career. Look out for more greatness.
Claire Boucher – Grimes
Known by the stage name Grimes, Boucher is on her way to even more renown. After “Flesh Without Blood” and “Genesis” you can tell why.