As history has certainly proven, ladies can rock just as hard as the men. Over the years, many women have wowed the world with their power and authority on the mic, leading some of the genre’s most popular rock bands along the way. Here are five of the most influential and iconic frontwomen in rock history. For the record, we’re leaving out artists who are arguably better known as individual performers (e.g. Tina Turner, Janis Joplin) and focusing instead on women who are best remembered for their lead vocals as part of a larger musical act.
1. Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac
Nicks may not be part of Fleetwood Mac’s original lineup, but she may as well have been. In addition to her successful solo career, she has been an integral part of the band’s biggest successes, including the iconic 1977 album Rumours. Her lead vocals guided “Dreams” to become the band’s sole number one hit in the U.S., and other Nicks-led tracks like “Landslide” and “Rhiannon” remain favorites. In 1997, she re-joined Fleetwood Mac and remains a key member of the band, where she shares vocal duties with longtime bandmates Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie.
2. Debbie Harry, Blondie
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was impossible to avoid the music of Blondie. From the ubiquitous “Heart of Glass” to the chart-topping “Rapture,” the band’s time in the spotlight may have been relatively brief, but it certainly shined bright. Harry’s breathless crooning was a key part of the band’s appeal, and her platinum blonde locks made her an influential face in the rock world. Ultimately, Blondie reunited in the late 1990s, scoring another number-one single in the United Kingdom with “Maria” and inspiring another generation of fans in the process.
3. Joan Jett, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Since the late 1970s, Jett and her Blackhearts have been making a major splash in rock music with unforgettable hits like “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Jett’s in-your-face attitude, gruff vocals, and guitar skills made her a memorable frontwoman, and her previous role as a member of the all-female rock group The Runaways cements her status as one of the pioneering women of modern rock music. To this day, she continues to release new music, with her thirteenth studio album released in late 2013.
4. Annie Lennox, Eurythmics
Back in the 1980s, this Grammy-winning duo was one of the most high-profile new wave musical acts to break out during synth-heavy era. Tracks like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and “Here Comes the Rain Again” placed a spotlight on Lennox’s smoky vocals and impressive range, leading the band to sell an estimated 75 million records before its 1990 breakup. Lennox then launched a solo career that continues to generate critical praise and awards attention. In 2003, the singer/songwriter nabbed an Oscar for “Into the West,” featured in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
5. Gwen Stefani, No Doubt
While No Doubt’s first couple albums failed to make much of a splash, the alt-rock band more than made up for it with the mega-successful Tragic Kingdom. That 1995 album – boosted by infectious tracks like “Just a Girl,” “Spiderwebs,” and “Don’t Speak” – sold more than 16 million copies worldwide. Stefani’s intense vocals and charismatic stage presence propelled the band to two more hit albums before its hiatus, during which she pursued a multi-platinum solo career. No Doubt reunited in 2010, releasing its third album in 2012 after an 11-year absence.
- Grace Slick, Jefferson Airplane
- Ann Wilson, Heart
- Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders
- Shirley Manson, Garbage
- Amy Lee, Evanescence
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