Throughout rock history, there have been countless female rockers that have set the genre alight and paved the way for many female musicians. Many of these artists have gone against the grain, pushed back against a typically male-dominated industry, and also created some of the greatest and most influential music of all time. In addition to having fantastic talent, these rock chicks are known for having style and attitude that you can’t teach and, of course, always looking amazing, which leads them to have more than a few admirers in the crowd. Here is a collection of the greatest.
12. Brody Dalle
The modern day punk rock queen, Brody Dalle is best known for her exceptional work as lead singer and guitarist for legendary punk rock band The Distillers. The band released just three records, with 2003’s Coral Fang being the most famous, but they remain one of the most influential punk rock acts of recent times. After disbanding, Dalle would form Spinnerette, who released one album, before releasing a solo record in 2014. These two albums would be a slight departure from the sound of The Distillers, proving her versatility and talent as a musician. As with all good rock chicks, she has the style, looks and attitude to go with it, and all women in modern rock will have looked up to Brody Dalle over the years. Dalle is also married to Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, forming arguably the coolest rock couple around.
Whilst many will claim that Bjork is not a rock chick (and she is not a typical one), her remarkable talent and the inability to pigeonhole her music is what makes her such a trailblazer, and consequently a bona fide rock chick. The Icelandic experimental singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer has one of the most impressive bodies of work of any artist, and she is famed for her astonishing creativity which is not confined to music. Her pioneering music, fantastic voice, groundbreaking videos, and visual style make her one of the most important artists of her generation, and the diversity makes her a favorite with fans of rock, electronica, dance, trip-hop and jazz. Originally the lead singer of The Sugarcubes, Bjork launched her solo career in 2003 with Debut, and has followed this brilliant record up with other fantastic albums including Homogenic, Vespertine, Volta, Biophilia and 2015’s Vulnicura.
10. Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox rose to fame in the ’80s with new wave synth pop outfit the Eurhythmics, which was a duo along with David A. Stewart. They would prove to be hugely influential, and, along with Lennox’s solo career, earned her eight Brit Awards (including six for Best British Female Artist). Her distinctive music is just one aspect of what makes her such an important female in rock, as she is also a political and social activist. She was known to go against the grain of typical female artists, and became famous for her androgynous appearance and provocative stage persona. She garnered a significant following with the LGBT community, and she also helped to shape popular culture in the ’80s alongside other gay icons including Boy George, Madonna and Morrissey. She is a certified rock chick both off and on stage.
9. PJ Harvey
Hailing from Dorset, England, PJ Harvey has developed a fierce reputation and is one of the most respected artists in England. The highly talented musician plays a number of instruments, but she is primarily known as a vocalist and guitarist and has an instantly recognizable voice, as well as a commanding onstage presence which is enhanced by frequently altering her dress and hairstyle over the years. Not one to stick to one formula, PJ Harvey is famous for changing her sound with each new album to stay fresh. This has seen her start out with a very rock-orientated sound, before expanding into alternative rock, pop, electronica and folk music. This diversity is particularly impressive, and was recognized in 2013 when she was awarded an MBE for services to music. She is also the only artist to ever win the Mercury Prize twice (2001 and 2011).
8. Ann Wilson
Whilst her sister, Nancy, gets an honorable mention, it is the other permanent fixture in Heart that gets the nod. Ann Wilson is the lead singer, flute player, occasional guitarist and songwriter for Heart, who are one of the most successful and popular female-fronted bands with top 10 albums in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2010s. Ann Wilson’s legendary voice plays a huge part in their success, and her powerful singing certainly inspired many other fantastic female artists that are on this list. Ann and Nancy had the attitude to match their hard rock music, and the combination of two attractive, talented and stylish sisters playing brilliant rock music ensured that they were immensely popular at the peak of their career. Many cite Heart as a band that started a revolution for women in music and inspired many females to pick up a guitar.
7. Grace Slick
Grace Slick was one of the lead singers of the pioneering psychedelic rock act Jefferson Airplane, making her a hugely important and influential artist in the genre. She was the perfect fit for the San Francisco-based band, possessing a beautiful and almost haunting voice. She also wrote the band’s two most famous songs, “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” off of the seminal 1967 release, Surrealistic Pillow. In true rock chick style, she was also anti-establishment, she had frequent run-ins with the law and was also known to perform topless on occasion. After Jefferson Airplane disbanded, Slick would continue with Jefferson Starship and then Starship, and retired in 1989. Her contributions to the genre, and specifically the psychedelic rock subgenre, her wonderful voice, looks, style, personality and her antics tick all the boxes for a classic and important rock chick.
6. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry is a certified punk icon. The singer-songwriter and lead singer of Blondie is not only a talented and excellent singer with a strong stage presence, but she is also attractive with signature blonde hair, she is very photogenic, effortlessly cool and she has an edge unlike any other performer. On stage she was a diva with wild moves and a phenomenal voice, and there is no denying that Blondie were pioneers in the new wave and punk scenes of the mid-late ’70s. They stayed fresh over the years by incorporating new styles into their music, but split up in 1982, which saw Harry pursue a relatively successful solo career. They would reform in 1997 and have toured and recorded around the world, and are still active today with Harry now 70 years old.
5. Pat Benatar
Back in the days where MTV actually played music and not terrible television shows, Pat Benatar was on heavy rotation and was also the first female artist to play on the station. Appearing so often on MTV, Benatar became one of the most successful and popular female vocalists of the ’80s, and her brand of rock music was full of power both musically and vocally. She also had an incredible stage presence which ensured she could captivate entire arenas, and this certainly inspired dozens of acts that followed, as she paved the way for many female artists. She has the fire and attitude to match the music, and this makes her one of the greatest rock chicks of all time. A few of her most popular tracks include “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Love is a Battlefield,” “Heartbreaker,” “Fire and Ice” and “Shadows of the Night.”
4. Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, and her singing and songwriting had an immediate and enormous impact on the band. The second album they released after she joined the band, Rumours, was the bestselling album of the year. It is also the sixth highest selling studio album of all time and one of the most important records in all of music. The single “Dreams” is the band’s only U.S. number one hit, and is just one of dozens of songs sung by Nicks that has had a huge impact on the rock genre. Although the history of Fleetwood Mac is complex, they have a phenomenal body of work and the songwriting and singing of Nicks is key in this. Many notable artists cite her as a major influence, including the likes of Courteney Love, the Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow, Taylor Swift and Florence Welch. One of the greatest singers of all time.
3. Patti Smith
An artist often labeled the “Godmother of Punk,” Patti Smith is famed for her ferocious literate punk rock, which has become enormously influential on the entire rock genre. She became a key component of the New York City punk rock movement, particularly with her 1975 release, Horses. She broke down barriers along the way, and her fusion of poetry and rock was ambitious and unconventional. She often draws comparisons to Bob Dylan because of this. Her experimental style is simply her doing what she feels like and not conforming to expectation, which is a crucial aspect in being a rock chick. It also expanded the possibilities of rock and roll, and she influenced both male and female artists in and out of the rock genre. In addition to her brilliant music and singing voice, Patti Smith is also an author, visual artist and social activist.
2. Janis Joplin
Tragically another member of the 27 Club, Janis Joplin has been hugely important in the rock genre and was known as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul.” She first rose to fame in the late ’60s as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, but she is best known for her excellent solo career and songs such as “Down on Me,” “Piece of my Heart,” “Ball n’ Chain” and “Me and Bobby McGee.” Like all great rock chicks, Janis Joplin was known for her incredible stage presence, which led some to claim that she was the female version of Elvis Presley. Joplin certainly paved the way for many of the artists on this list, and she remains one of the top selling musicians in the USA. She broke the mold for female singers, but sadly died of a drug overdose at the height of her success in 1970.
1. Joan Jett
Joan Jett took the genre by storm with one of the first all-female rock bands, The Runaways, who are best known the 1976 hit song “Cherry Bomb.” She would go on to find even more fame and success with her own band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. Their debut album, I Love Rock n’ Roll, was an enormous success in 1981, with the title track sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 from March 20th through to May 1st. With a fantastic, raspy singing voice and a huge amount of passion, she is one of the greatest female artists of all time and was born to rock. In addition to her brilliant voice, great songwriting and being a talented guitarist, Jett is also a feminist icon and kicked down the door for many more female rockers to follow, making her a pioneer in the genre.