Male performers have always dominated the genre of rock. Nevertheless, despite how difficult it may be to believe, there have been female musicians who have become recognizable figures in the genre. Here are some of the most talented people female rock singers, some of whom are still living and some of whom have passed away. This post will explore the 25 most famous and accomplished female rock singers.
Table of Contents
- 1. Stevie Nicks
- 2. Janis Joplin
- 3. Tina Turner
- 4. Joan Jett
- 5. Ann Wilson
- 6. Debbie Harry
- 7. Linda Ronstadt
- 8. Patti Smith
- 9. Courtney Love
- 10. Alanis Morissette
- 11. Nancy Wilson
- 12. Melissa Etheridge
- 13. Pat Benatar
- 14. Avril Lavigne
- 15. Ronnie Spector
- 16. Annie Lennox
- 17. Karen O
- 18. Hayley Williams
- 19. Dolores O’Riordan
- 20. Kim Deal
- 21. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- 22. Sharon Van Etten
- 23. Amelia Fletcher
- 24. Hayley Williams (Paramore)
- 25. Kate Pierson (The B-52s)
1. Stevie Nicks
In 1948, Stevie Nicks was born in Phoenix, Arizona. She joined her family’s band when she was just nine years old. Nicks later went to live with her father in California after being sent away by her drug-addicted, abusive mother. When she arrived in California, Nicks had the opportunity to meet some of the biggest rock stars of the age, including Jimmy Page and Keith Moon of The Who, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, and Gram Parsons. She started singing folk music regularly while attending high school in San Francisco.
2. Janis Joplin
There’s no doubt that Janis Joplin is one of rock’s most iconic female artists. Though she never found lasting success in her own right, Joplin was responsible for several wildly popular songs many of which became No. 1 hits for other artists. In particular, three of her songs “Piece of My Heart,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” and “Cry Baby” all hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
3. Tina Turner
Tina Turner is one of the most successful female rock musicians ever. Born in Nutbush, Tennessee, in 1939, Turner moved to Atlanta at age five and became a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue two years later. By the late 1950s, she was on her way to becoming one of rock’s most recognizable female performers. In 1960 she recorded “River Deep – Mountain High” with Ike & Tina Turner; this song became one of her most popular recordings.
4. Joan Jett
Joan Jett was born in New York City in 1958. By the early 1980s, she had become one of the most successful female rock musicians of that era and formed an all-female band, The Blackhearts. She became a central figure in New York City’s burgeoning punk rock scene, and her first band, The Runaways, became MTV’s inaugural video act, performing a cover of “Cherry Bomb.”
5. Ann Wilson
Ann Wilson is Heart’s lead vocalist and songwriter, one of the most famous rock bands ever coming out of the Pacific Northwest. She was born in California in 1950, but her family soon moved to Seattle. Wilson grew up loving music, especially folk and blues. By the end of the 1960s, she was a frequent visitor to local clubs and, after meeting guitarist Roger Fisher at a party, got involved with the burgeoning Seattle music scene.
6. Debbie Harry
By the end of the 1960s, Debbie Harry was a frequent visitor born in Hollis, Queens, New York, in 1946. Soon after, she decided to leave high school at sixteen and moved to New York City to pursue a career in music. Harry became involved with the Velvet Underground, with whom she recorded several songs. She also co-founded Blondie and went on to record some of rock’s most iconic songs.
7. Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt grew up in Tucson, Arizona. She joined the local band The Stone Poneys when she was a youngster and had developed into a skilled folk singer. In 1968, Ronstadt moved to Los Angeles, and soon after, Frank Sinatra had her signed to Capitol Records. She scored her first big hit with a cover of Roy Orbison’s “You’re No Good.”
8. Patti Smith
Patti Smith was born in Partick, New Jersey, in 1946. She was the daughter of a housewife and a truck driver. Smith began writing poetry and short stories at an early age, and by the time she was sixteen, she had formed The Patti Smith Group and had a solo career. She advanced to become one of the most recognizable punk rock vocalists worldwide.
9. Courtney Love
1964 saw the birth of Courtney Love in San Francisco. She and her brother were raised by their mother, who worked as a stripper. Love eventually moved to Los Angeles and joined the band, The Go-Gos. She later became a central figure in the grunge movement, fronting The Breeders and forming Hole.
10. Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, in 1974. After moving to Los Angeles at 13, Morissette got involved with the city’s punk rock scene. She moved to Los Angeles to start attending school, where she met guitarist Jeff Abbott. The two formed a band called Can-I-Bus, which became one of the most commercially successful bands to come out of Canada.
11. Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson was born in 1951 in Burbank, California. She became one of the most popular and successful female rock musicians of the 1970s. She was a founding member of the preggy band Heart, which was formed in 1972. In 1974, she became a member of Ann Wilson’s band, The Runaways, which saw success in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
12. Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1961. She was in her mid-twenties; by that point, she had established herself as a regular participant in the Los Angeles rock scene. She had mastered the piano and guitar by the time she was a teenager. Her first big hit was “Bring Me Some Water” from her 1988 EP of the same name. Later, she became one of the most popular female rock musicians.
13. Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar was born in Washington, D.C., in 1949. When they arrived in New York City, she was 14 years old and had her breakthrough as a singer when she formed the Zebra group. A few years later, she began working with Neil Giraldo, the guitarist in Giraldo & the Jacksons. Their biggest hit was “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”
14. Avril Lavigne
In Belleville, Ontario, in 1984, Avril Lavigne was born. She began writing songs at fifteen and had her first big hit with 2002’s “Complicated.” She scored several other hits over the next few years, including “Sk8er Boi.” Her debut album, Let Go, sold more than 12 million copies.
15. Ronnie Spector
Ronnie Spector, born in Brooklyn in 1946, has been a pioneer of the girl group revolution. She was one of the most successful postwar American rock musicians and helped revitalize the concept of girl groups by forming The Ronettes with her sister, Bobby, in 1963. Following her solo career, she formed a new group called Ronnie and the Redcaps.
16. Annie Lennox
In 1954, Annie Lennox was born in Scotland. She moved to London at fourteen and got involved with the city’s punk scene. In 1977 she joined a local band called The Tourists and became hugely successful as a solo performer. She formed the duo Eurythmics with Dave Stewart, which was hugely commercially successful.
17. Karen O
Karen O was born in 1983 in Providence, Rhode Island. A family of musicians raised her, and soon after moving to New York City, She started establishing herself as a live performer. She co-founded the band Yeah Yeahs, which took its name from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story.
18. Hayley Williams
The principal vocalist and songwriter for the band Paramore is Hayley Williams. She was born in Meridian, Mississippi, in 1987. When she was young, she began teaching herself how to play the guitar at 15 years old, and soon after, she joined the local group “Rise Against Me.” The two groups merged under the name Paramore, and before long, they had become one of rock’s hottest up-and-coming bands.
19. Dolores O’Riordan
Dolores O’Riordan was born in County Limerick, Ireland, in 1971. She formed a local band called The Cranberry Saw Us with her brother Dermot, who played guitar and drums. By the mid-1990s, their band had become one of Ireland’s most recognized rock acts. In 1999, O’Riordan joined the multi-platinum selling rock group The Cranberries and became one of the biggest female rock stars in history.
20. Kim Deal
Kim Deal was born in 1965 in Dayton, Ohio. She moved to Indiana when she was three years old, and her family later relocated to Massachusetts. The deal became involved in the Boston scene and formed a group called Pixies, which included Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering. The band got its start playing alternative rock venues across the United States.
21. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
In Cotton Plant, Arkansas, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born in 1915. She started playing the guitar at twelve years old, and shortly after that, she started her radio show on the KFFA station. In 1938 she became a full-time musician and sang alongside Louis Armstrong two years later.
22. Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten was born in 1983 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She began playing the guitar at the age of thirteen. She and her twin brother formed The Darling Buds after they moved to New York City. They released an album of their early material titled Say It First in 2007 and disbanded soon after.
23. Amelia Fletcher
Amelia Fletcher was born in London in 1972 and raised by her single mother on the south coast of England. At age five, she picked up the piano and became interested in classical music. When she was thirteen, she started a career as a professional musician and joined forces with Lisa Hannigan to establish the Fotini Kiss band. The group issued three albums before its dissolution in 2009.
24. Hayley Williams (Paramore)
Hayley Williams was born in 1987 in Meridian, Mississippi. At fifteen, she began teaching herself how to play guitar and writing her own songs soon after. She joined the local band “Rise Against Me” when she was sixteen after meeting them when a friend introduced them to her. The result was Paramore, which included William’s lead vocals. The band became one of their generation’s most popular American rock bands with hits like “Misery Business.”
25. Kate Pierson (The B-52s)
Kate Pierson was born in 1953 in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father was a soldier killed in the Vietnam conflict when she was two. She attended Bishop Griswold High School, and by the time she was a senior, she had developed an interest in music inspired by her brother’s record collection. A few years later, she moved to New York City and met Fred Schneider and Keith Strickland, who had been members of a local band called Television Personalities.