By Becky Atwood
When we think of early hard rock and proto-metal of the '60s and '70s, we typically think of groups like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and more. Actss consisting of men. While we can't take away from the impact these bands had on music for generations to come, some women of the era deserve a special shout out as well.
Whether it was the sound of her voice, her flamboyant aesthetic or her tragic and untimely death, pretty much everyone is familiar with Janis Joplin. The women listed below are often cited as major influences on contemporary musicians as well.
But there are some other groups and individuals that played a large part in laying the foundation for hard rock and metal as well, such as Fanny , The Runawayand Girlschool,
Each of the women in the gallery below — who all experienced their successes from the late '60s into the early '80s — deserve to be recognized for their contributions to hard rock and heavy metal throughout the years.
But there are some other groups and individuals that played a large part in laying the foundation for hard rock and metal as well, such as Fanny and The Runaways,
These female artists listed are in no particular order!
Fanny were one of the first rock bands, consisting entirely of women, to release an album on a major label — Reprise Records — and have singles land on the Billboard Hot 100. Their live performance was a key focus of the group, as they knew they needed to showcase their abilities in order to be taken seriously. "As a girl, you couldn’t tell anyone ‘I’m in a band,’" guitarist June Millington later told the Guardian. “You might as well say ‘I’m flying to the moon.’ It just wasn’t in the realm of experience. We had to create our own frame — and then step into it.”
One simply cannot talk about influential women in rock without discussing Stevie Nicks. She was mysterious and transparent at the same time — touching on sore subjects such as heartbreak and addiction in her metaphorical lyrics. And as for her fashion sense, the singer knew it wasn't necessary to dress provocatively to be powerful, and thus she attracted a cult-like following of women who sported her signature witchy look. “I’ll be very, very sexy under 18 pounds of chiffon and lace and velvet. And nobody will know who I really am,” she once told the New York Times. It's undeniable that without Nicks, Fleetwood Mac would absolutely not have become the global sensation that it did.
Heart's lead duo, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, took the foundation that Joplin, Slick and Fanny set up for them and elevated it to a new level. Ann's immensely powerful voice combined with Nancy's emotive guitar playing helped make Heart a household name of the 1970s music scene.
Suzi Quatro did it all. She was first and foremost a songwriter, but also a bassist, singer and band leader. Her well-rounded contributions to music made her one of the earliest multifaceted women in rock 'n' roll. "I was the first to be taken seriously as a female rock 'n' roll musician and singer. That hadn't been done before," she later told the Metro Times. "I played the boys at their own game."
Debbie Harry was the frontwoman of Blondie, who were one of the pioneers of new wave in the late 1970s that gained mainstream success. Harry became known as an icon in the punk community for her nonchalant demeanor and cool stage presence.
The Runaways /Cherie Currie/Lita Ford/ Joan Jett
The Runaways came in during the second half of the 1970s and proved that women were not to be fucked with any more than their male counterparts. They embodied rebellion, angst and overall badass-ery that eventually had them lumped in with the other major groups of the punk movement. They said and did just as they wanted and gained mass commercial success with songs such as "Cherry Bomb." The best part is that once the band dissolved, the members went on to have successful careers separately, which demonstrated their individual aptitudes. With out The Runaways, There would be no Joan Jett, Lita Ford or Cherie Currie.
Cherie Currie (former lead singer of The Runaways) is rocking stronger than ever. Her latest studio offering is, "Blvds of Splendor." his hit the charts and is climbing. She also release an album with Brie Darling from The band Fanny, Cherie Currie & Brie Darling = The Motivator. Cherie was the lead vocalist of the Runaways, a rock band from Los Angeles, in the mid-to-late 1970s. After the Runaways, she became a solo artist. She is an musician, actress and artist. Bomp! magazine described her as “the lost daughter of Iggy Pop and Brigitte Bardot”. She can sing a very melodic line one moment and a perfect growl in the next line that would make any rocker proud.
Lita Ford is in many ways the ultimate female rock and metal musician. Ford went on to have a successful solo career after ‘Lita’ was released in 1988. Those who were unaware of Ford’s shredding abilities were floored once "Kiss Me Deadly" became a juggernaut rock hit. During the song’s outro, Ford broke pop format by boasting her soloing abilities, which were almost unmatched at the time. The rock goddess has written songs with legendary artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, Nikki Sixx and many others.
Joan Jett is one of the original Supreme Rock Goddesses. After forming the electrifying outfit the Runaways, she ventured out on her own under Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, she paved the way for women in rock and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Girlschool, the hard-partying all-female metal outfit from England have been at it for almost four decades. They were one of the late Lemmy Kilmister's favorite bands and for good reason. The one-two punch of Glirschool's first two records, 'Demolition' and 'Hit and Run' are still felt today among their growing catalog with more recent albums like 2015's 'Guilty As Sin.'
The all-female act Vixen have seen a wealth of talented ladies round out the lineup over the years. Led by the now deceased Jan Kuehnemund, the group released four studio albums, though are most known for their debut, 'Vixen.' The album featured the standout cut "Edge of a Broken Heart," a cut still played live to this day
Liz Borden / Lizzie Borden & The Axes
The All Female Punk, New Wave, Rock Band are arguably a very diverse group. In no small part to bassist and founding member Liz Borden. She and Rita Lavacchia formed the band which became Lizzie Borden And The Axes. Then joining them Cyndie Barone replacing their 14 year old drummer that ran away. All band members, Rita Lavacchia, Cyndie Barone, Heather Rice Fahey and Kathy Perry and finally Lisa Addario joined the band. Liz Borden has released eight solo albums with her latest, Dancing On The Moon out in 2020. Lizzie Borden & The Axes released a single, Restless Soul penned by Borden. The Band will tell you that punk got them started, New Wave made them slightly more polished but Rock n Roll was always in their veins. While many women in bands are constantly in the spotlight for being all female, they fought it because it was held against them. People were not sure what category to put them in because they played hard. Liz Borden is still out there playing and releasing albums. The Band has done several reunions.