women who rock ~ a feminist music retrospective

for this week’s Sunday Special, Karina and Rebecca explore some lesser-known songs released by some of the most innovative and well-known female voices in music. see below for the bios of the artists we covered, as well as a chronological playlist of the songs we used! thanks for listening 🙂

File:Skunk Anansie - 02.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

“Hard-Headed Woman” by Wanda Jackson

Triple threat Wanda Jackson has had successful ventures into rock, country, and gospel. Born in 1937, her career took off after she was discovered and signed to Decca Records in high school after singing on a local radio show. After a brief tryst with Elvis, Jackson shifted from country to rockabilly, thus earning her the nickname “The Queen of Rockabilly”. She was one of the very first women to achieve success in rock-and-roll, so hats off to her!

“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Cher

American legend Cher is known by many as the ‘Goddess of Pop’, and for good reason. She is known for her distinctive contralto singing voice, and for having success in various forms of entertainment, from music to film and beyond. Cher first found fame in 1965 as one-half of the folk rock husband-wife duo Sonny & Cher, most notably their song ‘I Got You Babe’ and a hugely popular TV show, and she soon began a solo career. In the 1980s, she made her Broadway debut, and also found success in films such as Mask and Moonstruck, which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress.

“Long Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt

American singer Linda Ronstadt is an award-winning superstar of both pop and country music. She has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. She is celebrated for her ability to adapt to a diverse range of styles, delivering albums that featured country, rock, jazz and Spanish-language classics. In 2013, Ronstadt revealed that she could no longer sing because of the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

“Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” by Diana Ross

Singer and actress Diana Ross was part of the 1960s pop/soul trio the Supremes before embarking on a successful solo career, also starring in such films as ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ and ‘The Wiz.’

“Trust Me” by Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin developed a love of music at an early age, but her career didn’t take off until she joined the band Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1966. Their 1968 album, Cheap Thrills, was a huge hit. However, friction between Joplin and the band prompted her to part ways with Big Brother soon after. Known for her powerful, blues-inspired vocals, Joplin released her first solo effort, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, in 1969. The album received mixed reviews, but her second project, Pearl (1971), released after Joplin’s death, was a huge success. The singer died of an accidental overdose on October 4, 1970, at age 27.

“Dreamboat Annie” by Heart

Ann and Nancy Wilson are sisters, as well as the brains and faces behind rock band Heart. With Nancy playing guitar and Ann singing lead vocals, Heart took the world by storm in the 70s and 80s. After releasing Dreamboat Annie and Little Queen in 1975 and 1977 respectively, the band rebranded and honed the hard-driving, powerful sound they’re known for now. With hits like Barracuda, Alone, and All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You, Heart has certainly made their mark on pop culture for years to come.

“Surrender” by Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry is a singer and actress famous for leading Blondie, a new wave band known for their U.S. No. 1 hits “Heart of Glass,” “Call Me,” “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture.”

“Cactus Tree” by Joni Mitchell

Singer, songwriter Joni Mitchell is best known for her honest, confessional, and deeply poetic lyricism and her gorgeous singing voice. After singing in nightclubs around Canada and the U.S, Mitchell signed to Reprise Records and released a number of critically-acclaimed albums, including Blue, an album that is widely regarded as one of the best of all time, in 1971. Her music isn’t on Spotify, as she’s been a longtime critic of the music industry.

“Arabian Knights” by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Siouxsie Sioux, born Susan Ballion, is one of the pioneers of post-punk and goth music, and is arguably one of the most recognizable faces of the goth subculture. She got her start as a member of the Bromley Contingent, fans of the Sex Pistols who were known for their style and devotion to the band. Inspired by the DIY ethos of punk, she and Steve Severin started Siouxsie and the Banshees, with Siouxsie as lead singer. Though their very first performance was 20 minutes of the Lord’s Prayer, the band went on to release 11 albums in their 20 year run, making them one of the most successful underground bands of all time.

“Dread Love” by Nina Hagen

Dubbed as the Godmother of Punk, german Nina Hagen is a classically trained singer but chose to pursue the punk rock scene, as she mashes up her theatrical vocal executions and punk. Born in East Berlin, German Democratic Republic, Hagen first pursued her career in the mid 1970s. After moving to West Berlin in 1976, she formed the Nina Hagen Band and signed with CBS Records. The band released two album before Hagen decided to pursue her career as a solo artist. In 1982, she signed with CBS Records and released her first solo album “NunSexMonkRock”

“Time the Avenger” by The Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde is the lead vocalist and guitarist of the band the Pretenders. Originally an artist, her music career began when she moved to London. After multiple failed attempts to start or join a band, she finally met Pete Farndon, James Honeyman-Scott, and Martin Chambers, and the four became The Pretenders. Though she’s the only permanent member of the group, her songs have been chart-toppers multiple times, including Brass in Pocket and I’ll Stand By You.

“All We Are” by Warlock

“Dorothee Pesch (born 3 June 1964), known professionally as Doro Pesch or simply Doro, is a German heavy metal singer and the former frontwoman of heavy metal band Warlock. Dubbed the “Metal Queen“, Doro’s contributions to music and culture made her a global figure in metal culture for over three decades. The name Doro has also been associated with the touring band accompanying the singer, whose members have continuously changed in more than 20 years of uninterrupted activity, the most stable presences being those of bassist Nick Douglas and drummer Johnny Dee.” – Wikipedia

“Across the Lines” by Tracy Chapman

Best known for her hit single “Fast Car” that details the nature of poverty and generational trauma, Tracy Chapman emerged in 1988 with her critically-acclaimed debut self-titled album. Notoriously private, Chapman used her songs as vehicles to discuss issues of politics, sexuality, gender, race, and identity. She got her start busking on the streets in Boston before being discovered by Elektra Records. Since then, she’s put out 9 records, all in the same singer-songwriter vein.

“Foreign Affair” by Tina Turner

Tina Turner began performing with musician Ike Turner in the 1950s. They became known as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, achieving popular acclaim for their live performances and recordings like the top 5 hit “Proud Mary,” until Tina left in the 1970s after years of domestic abuse. Following a slow start to her solo career, Turner achieved massive success with her 1984 album Private Dancer. She went on to deliver more chart-topping albums and hit singles and was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

“Credit in the Straight World” by Hole

Though she is best known for being Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love’s music and band Hole were extremely successful in the early grunge scene. Originally an actress, she had minor roles in Sid and Nancy and Straight to Hell. Shortly thereafter, she formed Hole and released their first album in 1991, which was produced by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth fame. Their next two albums were critical hits, with Celebrity Skin being nominated for 3 Grammys. Love continues to release music, as well as write and act.

“Double Dare Ya” by Bikini Kill

Kathleen Hanna is best known as the lead singer and frontwoman of seminal punk band Bikini Kill, as well as the lead singer of Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin. One of Bikini Kill’s main goals was to encourage other women to make music and take up space in a male-dominated Washington punk scene, a goal they largely accomplished by being pioneers of the riot grrrl movement. Fun fact: their first EP was produced by punk legend Ian Mackaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat fame.

“It Takes Blood and Guts To Be This Cool But I’m Still Just A Cliche” by Skunk Anansie

Deborah Ann Dyer (pictured above), known by her stage name Skin, is a British rock singer and the lead vocalist of the band Skunk Anansie. The band formed in 1994 and became a staple of the Britrock scene, especially due to the fact that Skin was in direct opposition with Britpop groups like Blur. Skin has gone on to become an EDM DJ and a mother.

“Possibly Maybe” by Björk

Björk is arguably one of the most boundary-pushing, innovative, and experimental artists of the past 100 years. She was discovered at age 11 via an appearance on Iceland’s only radio station, and joined the band the Sugarcubes, which became an international sensation. After leaving the Sugarcubes, Bjork released a significant number of solo albums that garnered both critical and audience praise, including Debut, Post, Homogenic, and Vespertine.

“Sky Fits Heaven” by Madonna

Madonna is a pop music singer and actress who went solo in 1981 and became a sensation in the then male-dominated 1980s music scene. By 1991, she had achieved 21 Top 10 hits in the United States and sold more than 70 million albums internationally. In January 2008, she was named the world’s wealthiest female musician by Forbes magazine.

“UR” by Alanis Morrissette

Alanis Morissette is a Canadian musician known for her confessional lyrics and a layered rock-influenced sound. Her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill established her as one of alternative rock’s foremost female vocalists of the 1990s.

“Start Over” by Beyonce

Born in 1981, BeyoncĂ© Knowles is a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist who’s acclaimed for her thrilling vocals, videos and live shows. BeyoncĂ© first captured the public’s eye as lead vocalist of the R&B group Destiny’s Child. She later established a solo career with her debut album Dangerously in Love, becoming one of music’s top-selling artists with sold-out tours and a slew of awards. She married hip-hop recording artist Jay-Z in 2008 and the couple has three children, and she also holds the record for most Grammy wins ever by a female artist with 28.

“TV” by Billie Eilish

Born in 2001, American singer and songwriter Billie Eilish became a pop superstar by way of her distinctive musical and fashion sensibilities and songs like “Ocean Eyes,” “Bad Guy” and “Therefore I Am.” Born and raised in Los Angeles, Billie Eilish was barely a teenager when her song “Ocean Eyes” became a viral hit. She teamed with her brother, Finneas, to create the tracks for the breakout EP Don’t Smile at Me and the smash album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, establishing the artist as a global sensation and multi-time Grammy winner before the age of 20.

“Getaway Car” by Taylor Swift

One of today’s top acts in popular music, Taylor Swift was earning renown as a country music singer by the age of 16. Early hits like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” appealed to country and pop fans alike and helped fuel the multi-platinum success of her albums, including the Grammy-winning Fearless (2008). Swift continued to top the charts with her 2014 studio effort 1989, which featured the No. 1 singles “Shake it Off” and “Blank Space” and won Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album.