Today it is becoming more and more accepted for women to play just as much of a part as men in any musical genre (although I hasten to add it is still a work in progress particularly in areas like rock, dubstep, house, rap etc). However, as with most things, women had to majorly persevere to even begin to come close to this acceptance. One of the most eye opening reads of my life in terms of women and the music industry was the biography of the one and only, Suzi Quatro – a pioneer of female rock music. Quatro described the beginnings of her career, the utter disbelief of an audience faced with a female led rock band and being pelted with tomatoes or similar at various venues as well as being escorted out by three bouncers purely for her own safety at the end of a night.
What struck me most was that despite this (amongst other abuse and slamming she experienced) and bearing in mind she was as young as sixteen when she started out, she never seemed disheartened. Her determination to lead women into a musical revolution in an uptight sixties/seventies era is a fantastic inspiration and a perfect role model for young female artists heading for a more ‘masculine’ genre in our generation. Quatro is just one fine example of a woman who helped shape the music industry, I feel it’s incredibly important to once in a while look back and pay our respects to the greats. These are my top six in no particular order;
The first female artist to play on MTV, Benatar won four Grammys and during the eighties achieved two Multi-Platinum albums, five Platinum albums and three Gold albums as well as fifteen top fourty singles. Her most well known track is probably ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot’ – later covered by Joan Jett. In her 2010 memoir she wrote “For every day since I was old enough to think, I’ve considered myself a feminist … It’s empowering to watch and to know that, perhaps in some way, I made the hard path [women] have to walk just a little bit easier.”
Hynde has been the only constant member of ‘The Pretenders’, and collaborated on two number ones including ‘I got you babe’ with UB40. Coming from Ohio Valley, she moved to London during the seventies just in time to partake in the emerging Punk scene. The Pretenders’ hits included ‘Brass in Pocket’ and ‘Back on the Chain Gang’.
Joan is often seen as the most well known ‘queen of rock’, her band ‘Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ released a number one ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ as well as other popular tracks like ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ and ‘Crimson and Clover’. She has had three Platinum or Gold albums and has always been depicted as a feminist icon. Jett is particularly inspirational in that she started up ‘The Runaways’ as a teenager, along with Cherie Currie, sharing lead vocals and writing a lot of the material. She was considered the driving force behind the band who had a film released in 2010 following their journey into the industry.
Janis Joplin initially sang in the band, ‘Big Brother and The Holding Company’, whose album ‘Cheap Thrills’ reached number one on the Billboard Charts in October 1968. However she then began her own band ‘The Kozmic Blues Band’ and then ‘The Full-Tilt Boogie Band’ who performed to large audiences such as the Sports Arena in San Diego. Joplin was posthumously awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by The Grammys in 2005 and in 2014 was put on a postage stamp in the US for being ‘one of the greatest rock singers of all time.’
Best known as the front woman of ‘Blondie’, Harry also had a successful solo career and even appeared many times in film and television. With the ‘music video revolution’ of the era, she quickly became a punk icon, appearing on the front cover of ‘Rolling Stone’. In 1978 the album ‘Parallel Lines’ was a UK number one and a US number six, selling nearly two million copies. ‘One Way or Another’ continued this success for the band reaching number twenty four on ‘Billboard’s Hot 100’. ‘Blondie’ is still incredibly well known even amongst our generation and particularly aspiring young women.
Possibly the most well known member of ‘Fleetwood Mac’ who enjoyed enormous success, Nicks produced over forty top fifty hits with her combined solo career. Rolling Stone even named her ‘Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll’, plus as part of ‘Fleetwood Mac’ she holds a position in the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’. Their album ‘Rumours’ of 1977 sold 40 million copies worldwide and is therefore the sixth biggest selling studio album of all time. The band also achieved five Grammy nominations. Although Nicks achieved a further eight nominations in her solo career as well as ‘Bella Donna’ reaching platinum status in only three months.