Seven female rock singers that changed the game

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Seven female rock singers that changed the game

Female rock singers
Words by Ally Oop

From Tina Turner to Chrissy Hynde, we're celebrating the trailblazers and innovators that paved the way for the female rock singers that came after them.

Female rock artists all around the world are revered for their songwriting, voice, musical playing prowess, stage presence, and fashion, influencing fans and budding musicians alike as they provide a blueprint for people like them to shine.

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Here is a snapshot of some of the most influential and award-winning female rock vocalists across who paved the way for generations to come.

Chrissie Hynde

Principal songwriter and lead vocalist for The Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde can rock any genre from punk rock to new wave, and then all the way to pop with ease after going through hell. Which front-woman tells the crowd to F#!# off with attitude, a line from ‘Precious’ off their self-titled debut album, and then gets away with it? Simply epic.

Full of sass and grunt, Chrissie Hynde is truly a prolific songwriter deserving of more recognition with her work on an extensive catalogue of albums. Her voice is powerful with plenty of sass and bravado and has a versatile contralto vocal range which allowed her to sit in the deeper rock pocket The Pretenders put themselves in. Her androgynous appearance combine wither voice enabled her to be the ultimate boss of the band.

Punk rock track ‘The Wait’ was in one of their first demos which demonstrates her exceptional vocal and songwriting prowess, teamed with Pete Farndon’s punked out edge. ‘Brass In Pocket’ was one of the most highly-charted of their songs packed full of sauce, completely showcasing the skillset of Hynde, combing attitude and sensuality with a hardened edge that kept you wanting more.

Her most notable non-Pretenders collaboration with another international band is ‘I Got You Babe’ with UB40. After Madonna had seen her perform in Central Park she commented, “She’s got balls, she’s awesome”.

Stevie Nicks

A mystical stage presence and gypsy-like fashion always keeps her crowd mesmerised. Stevie Nicks, paved the way for many artists and went on to shine in her solo career with incredible songs including ‘Rooms on Fire’, ‘Talk to Me’, and ‘Stand Back’. She has also collaborated with outstanding artists such as Don Henley from the Eagles and Tom Petty on notable duets.

Her collaboration with the latter resulted in ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ which was her most successful hit spending 21 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Many artists have named her as an influence on their careers such as Belinda Carlisle and Sheryl Crow as she has been nominated for eight Grammy awards. Oh, and she has one hell of a vibrato and a distinctive feathery whimsical contralto vocal range.

Tina Turner

Tina Turner, one soul shaking powerhouse with hi-octane energy performances is known as the ‘Queen of Rock and Roll’ (one of many, we know, but we can have more than one legend, right?). She has been adept at preserving her vocals as she entered her seventh decade and stopped touring, still entertaining with utterly beautiful vocals before her retirement just over a decade ago.

The mezzo-soprano with a whole lotta soul and the best legs in show biz’ certainly knows how to rock the stage. Her vocals are versatile and can adapt to varying genres from blues to pop to rock and country. Artists such as Janis Joplin, Janet Jackson, and Beyonce have all been influenced by Tina.

Debbie Harry

New York City music and fashion icon, Debbie Harry could weave between new wave, punk, rock, and reggae in the band Blondie.

As an incredibly gifted alto vocalist, with three octaves and one semitone, the artist could transition from soft and ethereal to angry and gritty with ease. As part of Blondie, the band were lucky enough to land themselves on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1979.

The band’s third album Parallel Lines skyrocketed them to international success and stardom on the back of the classic Studio 54 disco track ‘Heart of Glass’. Eat To The Beat and Autoamerican followed with classic hits that keep rolling in such as ‘Call Me’ ‘Atomic’, ‘The Tide is high’ and the ultra hip song ‘Rapture.’

The latter was written with Chris Stein and the music video features street scenes with aerosol art and a fusion of different cultures, not to mention an appearance by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The single became a trendsetter and was the first rap video ever broadcast on MTV. Artists such as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper cite Debbie Harry as an influence on their careers.

Alanis Morissette

Canadian-American and musically diverse Alanis Morissette can write and belt out exceptional songs. Her mezzo-soprano voice is powerful, edgy ,and definite in her delivery.

Jagged Little Pill, which sold over 33 million copies worldwide, is the most successful album from the ’90s. This ensured she was the recipient of five Grammy awards.

Anger from unsuccessful relationships is certainly evident on ‘You Oughta know’, so in your face with some shocking lyrical statements. Her third studio album remains one of the best selling albums of all time. Incredibly heartfelt and raw, her songs are unforgettable with a post-grunge element to them.

The album has a musical production which has been nominated for 15 Tony Awards. Artists like Shakira and Pink have been influenced by Jagged Little Pill.

Joan Jett

The founding member of teenage punk band The Runaways and also a member of Joan Jett and The Blackhearts knows how to rock out. With strong punchy vocals and rocking riffs, she is a rock ‘n roll icon.

Her determination to succeed is a learning point for so many, as her self-titled debut album was rejected by a whopping 23 record labels in the unforgiving U.S market. So that ensured she commenced her own label, Blackheart Records. Absolutely incredible! With a mezzo-soprano vocal range, strong, punchy, in-your-face, smoking vocals with rocking riffs to boot she is a Rock and Roll icon around the world.

‘Cherry Bomb’ written by Jett with manager Kim Frowley is one turbo-charged track. She proceeded to have a successful career with classic rock songs such as ‘Bad Reputation’ and the epic cover  ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. She has influenced bands like L7, Babes in Toyland, and Hole.

Patti Smith

Fusing punk rock and poetry is impressive. Patti Smith delivers with an edge on the epic song ‘Horses’ which was also the title of her first breakthrough album. The seminal album had a significant impact on artists such as Madonna and Michael Stipe from R.E.M which led to him starting his own band.

‘Because The Night’ is one phenomenal heartfelt classic written poached off Bruce Springsteen’s cutting room floor by Jimmy Iovine who insisted Smith add her own lyrics over the top. Her strong, emotive contralto vocals are earth shatteringly incredible on the track, as they are in her whole extensive catalogue.

This song has been covered successfully by many artists such as Garbage, Screaming Females, Italian dance act CO.RO, and German DJ Jan Wayne.

Check out Dig!’s take on the best female vocalists of all time.

This article was originally published on Mar 8, 2022.