History’s Most Encore-Worthy Rock ‘N’ Roll Goddesses
Rock ‘n’ roll may seem like a man’s world, but screaming guitars and head-banging isn’t just reserved for the guys. Unfortunately, history books don’t often show women making noise. From Kim Gordon’s epic guitar solos to Stevie Nicks’ powerful voice, women can do it just like the boys, and these leading ladies prove it. See who’s on our list of the top rockin’ babes in the industry.
The Fleetwood Mac frontwoman, Stevie Nicks, is one of the best-selling musical acts of all time. Her work in Fleetwood Mac has landed her a Grammy and five nominations, among several other awards for her solo work as well.
Nicks is also a multi-talent. The legendary songstress has landed a number of acting gigs, including a role on the popular FX series American Horror Story.
Debbie Harry AKA Blondie
Blondie was absolutely groundbreaking, and the reason behind their fame and success is the too-hot-to-touch Debbie Harry. Blondie led a new-wave revolution, and Harry’s voice and charisma are at the forefront.
Harry is also an accomplished actress with a career spanning over 60 film roles and a number of TV appearances.
Before her foray into pop music and reality TV, Gwen Stefani fronted the band No Doubt. No Doubt’s music inspired a generation of young women, from their single “I’m Just A Girl” about the difficulties of being a young woman in a male-dominated world to her record-breaking, ska-tinged “Don’t Speak.”
Gwen’s signature voice, experimental style, and wild hair colors helped create a lasting image for her band.
Pat Benatar needs no introduction. The female rocker has gone down in history with 15 Billboard Top 40 singles, including “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Love Is A Battlefield,” “We Belong,” and “Invincible.”
Her debut album, In The Heat Of The Night, reached #12, and her singles became smash hits.
Carly Simon was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, and for good reason. Her name is synonymous with ’70s folk/rock.
After 40 years of fans wondering who she was talking about in her hit song, “You’re So Vain,” Simon revealed that one of the men she was referring to was Warren Beatty.
Alternative rock shredder Kim Gordon is the hallmark of NYC-based rock band Sonic Youth.
Kim Gordon’s distinct command of the guitar and the way she crafted her sound really set Sonic Youth apart from the other alternative rock bands in the ’90s.
Susanna Hoffs, the co-founder of the rock band The Bangles, is a bonafide shredder. In the 1980s, it was almost unheard of for a group of all-women to be in a rock band, but Hoffs and her Bangles bandmates did it anyway.
Hoffs’ has an immense talent and a unique recording style that sets her apart.
You may know Alison Mosshart as the fearless frontwoman of The Kills, but Mosshart got her start as the vocalist of the groundbreaking punk band Discount. Though they disbanded in 2000, Discount paved the way for female-led punk bands like Paramore and The Donnas.
When she’s not fronting The Kills, she’s also a part of the group Dead Weather with Jack White.
Grunge goddess Shirley Manson has a haunting mystique that is the hallmark of her band Garbage’s aesthetic. At the age of 50, she’s still performing with the band.
Quite frankly, it’s Manson’s I-Don’t-Care attitude that created her band’s legacy and allows her to still perform today.
Grace Slick, the Jefferson Airplane frontwoman, has a music career spanning four decades, with numerous credits. She also lent her vocals to the mega-hits “Somebody to Love,” “White Rabbit,” and “We Built This City.”
At 47 years old, the songstress blew age stereotypes and broke her record for being the oldest female vocalist on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
You may have known Joan Jett as the face of the Runaways because of her massive commercial success with the Blackhearts, but Cherie Currie was actually the lead singer.
Her punk spirit changed rock music forever. Currie proved teen girls are powerful – and they have a voice that’s worth listening to.
Dolores O’Riordan was the fierce-as-anything front woman for the ’90s rock group, The Cranberries. Her voice helped to define the band’s sound and catapulted them into mainstream rock success. She even wrote the band’s biggest, most recognizable hits, “Linger” and “Zombie.”
Sadly, O’Rierdan passed away in 2018, devastating fans around the world.
This front lady rocks her own solo project like it’s no one’s business – she’s in charge, and rightly so. After rising to fame as a teenager with her songs “Complicated” and “Sk8 Boi” in 2002, Avril Lavigne garnished a decades-long career with over 40 million album sales.
Also, Avril totally patented the epic tie and t-shirt combo.
Jenny Lewis may have started as a child actor, but her musical talent and ultra-sexy voice lead her into indie darling success. Lewis fronted the band Rilo Kiley, who made waves in the early ’00s.
The prolific singer/songwriter also made a name for herself as a solo artist. Her record Voyager was declared one of the albums of the year by A.V. Club, Spin and NPR.
Alexis Krauss is a voice of a new generation of rockers. The singer fronts the electro-punk band Sleigh Bells. Krauss’ punchy vocals help define Sleigh Bells’ disjointed, punk sound.
Krauss breaks down gender barriers, adopting a vintage pin-up style while screaming into a microphone.
Courtney Love fronted the alternative rock band Hole and was in a highly publicized marriage with Kurt Cobain. Courtney is known for her bleach-blonde hair and baby doll dresses, but she’s quite a prolific songwriter.
She wrote the album Celebrity Skin alongside Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Courtney also received a Golden Globe nomination for her acting.
Lzzy Hale is taking modern metal by storm after forming the hard rock band Halestorm in 1997.
Lzzy has a long track record of singing with some of hard rock’s biggest acts. She’s done guest spots with Amy Lee from Evanescence and Alter Bridge.
Juliana Hatfield is best known for her work with the Lemonheads, but she’s also the amazing frontwoman behind the ’90s alternative act The Juliana Hatfield Three.
Their 1993 single “My Sister” hit number one on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and was regularly played on MTV.
Nina Persson is the soft-singing, gorgeous frontwoman of the Cardigans. The powerpop band saw immense success with their single “Lovefool,” and they became an international sensation.
The band has sold 12 million albums worldwide, which has much to do with Persson’s signature vocals, which helped catapult her band into success.
Pioneer of the feminist punk riot grrrl movement, Kathleen Hanna rose to prominence in the mid-’90s as the lead singer of Bikini Kill.
Her efforts in activism equaled her music career, as Hanna used her time in the spotlight to speak on issues including sexism, violence against women, and AIDS.
Gladys Knight had a voice of an angel. Her great vocals, along with her male backup singers (The Pips), helped mold the sound of Motown in the ’60s and ’70s.
While they may not be rock themselves, they surely helped influence some of your favorite rock bands. Their song “Midnight Train to Georgia” was an instant hit and classic, and their run continued long after that song.
This band was formed in England way back in 1976 and was led by soothing vocalist Siouxsie Sioux (hence their name Siouxsie and the Banshees).
They were first associated with the punk rock scene before evolving into a post-punk discord.
Marie Fredriksson has the look and all the essentials to be the lead vocalist of this pop-rock duo, Roxette. These two were pretty much unstoppable in the late ’80s when they dropped hits like “The Look” and “Listen To Your Heart.”
Fans couldn’t get enough of what they had to offer.
The Haim Sisters
If you haven’t been acquainted with Haim yet, don’t worry because you will soon know and love these lovely ladies. Hailing from Los Angeles, the group consists of Este Haim (bass), Danielle Haim (lead vocals and guitars), and Alana Haim (guitars and keyboards).
This pop-rock group has been slowly making a name for themselves as the years go on, killing their sets at festivals.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs is an American indie rock band led by Karen O. With four albums under their belts, they sure have gained a huge following since hitting the scene, especially with help from their single “Heads Will Roll” from 2009.
They have bounced around genres like fuzz-rock, gospel, and post-punk but still managed to keep their identity, which is impressive.
The Pretty Reckless was formed in 2009 and consists of lead vocalist Taylor Momsen. If you were not aware before, Taylor was previously an actress known for her role as Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl.
The other members are Ben Phillips, Mark Damon, and Jamie Perkins, who all do something different with their individual skill sets.
Evanescence is an American rock/metal band led by singer and pianist Amy Lee, and they were a shining light in rock music in the mid-2000s.
The song that started that musical reign was the hit song “Bring Me To Life.”
Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes frontwoman, has a life-changing voice. After you hear her once, you will understand what we mean.
Their album after Boys & Girls, Sound & Color was the group’s first number-one album back in 2015.
Paramore’s debut album All We Know Is Falling was released in 2005 and only peaked at the number thirty spot on the billboards.
Fortunately, their second album would go platinum in America. A few years later, they were selling out arenas. Hayley Williams leading the vocals is perfect for their sound.
Beth Ditto is best known for her work fronting the intensely chaotic rock band Gossip. The singer describes herself as a “Fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas.”
Ditto has seen commercial success outside of just her band. She created her own makeup line, and she continues to fight for more diversity and plus-sized representation in mainstream fashion magazines.
These lovely ladies were formed back in 1996 over in London, Ontario. They have six studio albums.
They’ve had many different members, but now they are set on their three.
Led by Chrissie Hynde from 1979 to 2008, The Pretenders could do no wrong. The most time they took between albums was five years.
The band has gone through several facelifts, but Hynde is the only member that has remained through it all.
Another all-sibling group led by Sydney Sierota from Los Angeles broke out in 2014 when their hit “Cool Kids” was released after years of building a fan base and doing shows.
Their first album was released in 2013, Talking Dreams.
This amazing band is from Kitee, Finland. They came together in 1996 and were formerly led by Anette Olzon, dating back to 2007. Then, in 2012, the band announced they were parting ways with her.
After parting ways with the band, Olzon released her solo album ‘Shine’ in 2014.
Flyleaf toured America in 2003 in preparation for releasing its first album.
“Lacey Sturm found fame as the frontwoman of Christian rockers Flyleaf, whose eponymous debut from 2005 had no difficulty crossing over to metal fans of all religious persuasions and selling over one million copies, in the process,” wrote Loudwire.
Combined with her smooth and sometimes bellowing voice, ZZ Ward belts out songs like “Put the Gun Down” and “365” that gets the crowd clapping and stomping their feet.
Her songs touch on topics that many women can relate to, like being stuck in a bad relationship.
Alice Merton’s powerful voice exploded on the music scene. Her hit debut single, “No Roots,” released at the end of 2016, describes her nomad lifestyle.
There’s no doubt that Merton has a successful music career ahead of her. She’s already founded her own record label, Paper Plane Records International.
Marissa King Mike and Marissa Paternoster
Members King Mike and Marissa Paternoster formed a band in high school with the name of Surgery On TV, later deciding to be a group of three and changing their name to Screaming Females.
“The raw energy of Marissa Paternoster has been serving as the fuel for Screaming Females, an indie-rock band hailing from New Jersey, for a decade,” wrote Billboard. “Rose Mountain, the trio’s triumphant sixth album, was released in February 2015.”
Korey Cooper And Jen Ledger
Skillet’s band members have changed since they formed in 1996 and now include lady rockers Korey Cooper and Jen Ledger.
Cooper’s husband, John, is the lead vocalist and bassist, while she takes on guitar, keyboard, and backup vocals. Ledger is on the drums and percussion, also lending her voice.
A true female of rock, Donita Sparks shows no mercy. She has loads of talent as a vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and drummer.
Sparks founded the band L7 with Suzi Gardner and most recently performs with her band Donita Sparks and The Stellar Moments.
Ann & Nancy Wilson
Heart is one of the most successful rock bands of all time, led my rock goddesses Ann and Nancy Wilson.
Their popularity saw a decline in the early ’80s, but Heart bounced back when they signed with Capitol Records, and their album Brigade reached number three in the UK.
It took until the mid-2000s for In This Moment to join the class of female-led bands but by then the competition was insanely fierce.
Maria Brink leads this band, and not only did she have a great voice, but she also packed a ton of charisma! That combination is great for entertaining.
After finishing ninth on season two of The X Factor, Bea Miller’s music career began to shine.
Miller’s songs describe bad relationships, moving on, and the struggles that come along the way.
Lead vocalist Jill Janus moved to Los Angeles and met the underground metal band, Professor back in 2009.
They have a style classified as classic heavy metal, and their songs have lots of screaming.
On the alternative rock side, we have Bishop Briggs. Her singles “River” and “Wild Horses” climbed the charts, including top 3 on the Billboard Alternative Songs and top 10 on the Billboard Hot Rock.
A professionally trained musician, Briggs says most of the songs she writes begin with her sitting down at a piano.
Tarja Turunen is probably one of the more renowned women leads on this list. She has one of the greatest ranges of her voice, a soprano-like skill that goes three octaves.
Eventually, it was clear that she had the talent to go solo, so that is what she did.
Debora Anne Dyer AKA Skin
Debora Anne Dyer, or as her fans know her, Skin, looked poised to lead her band to the big time in the early ’90s. They had a politically charged stance which ended up slowing them down on their quest for greatness.
Nonetheless, Skin became an unforgettable role model in fields outside of music, like modeling and activism.
Melissa Auf der Maur
Melissa Auf der Maur has several bands on her rock resume, including Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, Tinker, Constant Comment, and more.
VH1 named Maur #68 of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll, as she’s continued to contribute to the music world spanning three decades.
Exene Cervenka is one of the most unrecognized influential women of rock – and she’s hot with her reckless, uncaring attitude. Cervenka pioneered the ’70s punk scene, where women were almost entirely unheard of, by fronting the band X.
Cervenka is still rocking, even in middle age, as X reunited and regularly performs.
The Italian beauty Cristina Scabbia had a quiet start to her career. That also is true for her band, Lacuna Coil.
She became one of the most popular frontwomen out there, a status she still holds.
In Europe, Doro Pesch was deemed the “Metal Queen.”
This woman has been hard at work throughout her career. She has been in the business for over 30 years and has a dozen studio albums!
Before Angela Gossow was introduced to Arch Enemy, the band launched into orbit with a new high level of recognition.
She was showing the world that a woman could be as fierce as a man. She also opened the door for many other metal frontwomen.