Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Ke$ha all belong in the top 10 of most-downloaded iTunes songs of all time, but not too long ago women did not reign the music charts. Since March is Women’s History Month, let’s look back at the women who helped pave the way for today’s top ranking ladies.
Disclaimer: There are far too many important women in the history of music to even scratch the surface here. The following women are just some of my personal favorites who all had a positive message for females.
Motown may have had so many amazing girl groups, but Atlantic Records had the Queen of Soul: Aretha Franklin. Not many vocalists could take an Ottis Reading song, then turn around and make people forget it was a cover. “Respect” gave African-American women an unprecedented voice and visibility in 1967, a time when our country was still battling both sexism and racism.
Rock, particularly punk rock, was a predominantly male-dominated genre from its beginning. A member of one of the first successful all female bands, The Runaways, Joan Jett broke down barriers with attitude, heavy guitar riffs and a “Bad Reputation.” She is currently still rocking out & the founder of Blackheart Records, which has signed a whole new generation of female rockers.
Her debut solo album was titled She’s So Unusual and at the time that certainly described her. She wore funky thrift store fashions, had more vibrant hair color than Katy Perry and a squeaky Queens accent with an adorkable laugh. In 1983, she became the first female artist ever to achieve four top five hits off of one album on the Billboard Hot 100. Cyndi is still recording and now spends much of her time championing for LGBT rights. Her signature song, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” has gained recognition as a feminist anthem and the video was the first to win Best Female Video at the MTV Music Video Awards.
You may know her as an actress, television show host, and Cover Girl, but back in the day Queen Latifah was the reigning monarch of female rap. Her 1989 debut album, All Hail The Queen is still one of the greatest rap records of all time, regardless of gender. And the album’s signature track, “Ladies First,” was not only a call to arms in terms of feminine positivity, but also lyrically tight, while remaining smooth. *Some of the images in the following video deal with the battle to end the apartheid in South Africa. They may not be suitable for sensitive viewers.
Kathleen Hanna is widely considered as the founder of the feminist riot grrrl movement. She overturned gender norms with her D.I.Y. punk zines and as the singer and songwriter for the band Bikini Kill. She basically made it her personal mission to increase feminist activity and female involvement in the 90’s punk rock scene.
In an article celebrating Hanna’s accomplishments in the music, The New York Times explains the riot grrrl movement:
“When it took hold in the early and mid 1990s, driven by bands from Olympia, Wash., like Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, it represented a new kind of youthful, D.I.Y. feminism, a grass-roots uprising aimed less at liberating women from the institutions that oppressed them than inviting women to create new ones.”
Kathleen Hanna went on to front Le Tigre, an electropunk band, in the late 90’s through the early 2000’s. Their song “Hot Topic” is a musical history lesson filled with feminist icons!
Now it is your turn to reply and share what female musicians rock your world!
lauren @ CLP – Woods Run