10 Greatest Female Rock Stars of All Time

For as long as there's been rock 'n' roll, there have been chicks who rock. They're not as plentiful as their male counterparts, but they can have just as much impact.

Here are 10 of our favorite lady rockers.


10. Brody Dalle
The vocalist and guitarist of the Distillers and Spinnerette might not go down in the history books as one of the most famous frontwomen of all-time, but anyone who's listened to her work can't doubt how hard she rocks. The woman who started off as Tim Armstrong's Australian girlfriend (and is now Josh Homme's wife) has proven herself to be an awesome frontwoman and a powerful punk rock talent. Dalle opened up being a badass punk rocker to a whole new generation of frontwomen, which was particularly important in the time right before today's feminist movement.

9. Stevie Nicks
Although Nicks' career garners mixed reactions from fans and critics alike, there's no doubt about her importance in the music scene of the 1970s. Her heartfelt vocal stylings and songwriting brought Fleetwood Mac to a level of fame, popularity and historical significance they'd never before reached. Plus, how can we not include Nicks after her amazing cameo on the third season of American Horror Story?

8. Siouxsie Sioux
In the early days of British punk, Siouxsie and the Banshees made a name for themselves as the band with a female lead singer. Almost four decades later, they're still viewed as one of the pioneers of alternative music, with their iconic frontwoman inspiring both the style and sounds of generation after generation of newer bands. While the Sex Pistols flamed out almost immediately and the Banshees broke up in the '90s, the goth-punk queen is still going strong in her solo career and expects to have a new album out this year.

7. Kim Gordon
If you want to know what it's like to be a girl in a successful band, you should start by reading Gordon's memoir (appropriately titled Girl in a Band). With Sonic Youth broken up, Gordon has moved on to other projects, including penning one of the most detailed looks at being a female rock star of the '80s, '90s, and '00s. As if her time with Sonic Youth wasn't enough, Gordon extended her musical reach by producing Hole's debut album, which means she's partially responsible for another legendary lady rocker.

6. Deborah Harry
Historically speaking, there's no denying Blondie's importance. They might be the most significant female-fronted band in history, and not just because of their mega-classic “One Way or Another.” Although primarily viewed as a new wave band, Harry and the band broke into several other genres, including an extremely early version of what would later become modern hip-hop, all because of the singer's vocal range and ability. It could actually be argued that not only is Harry rock royalty, but that she's also the first female rapper.

5. Karen O
The 21st century has seen its fair share of lady rockers, but none at the level of Karen O. Whether they're a bigger fan of her time with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or her solo work, most critics and fans agree that Karen O is among the most talented frontwomen to grace the music world in a long time. At 36, Karen O could still be rocking for a few more decades before she hangs up her microphone, and we're looking forward to what else her future holds.

4. Joan Jett
If you look up “badass female rock stars,” a picture of Joan Jett should pop up. As if the Runaways weren't iconic enough, Jett's work with the Blackhearts led to one of the most anthematic songs ever created (“I Love Rock 'n' Roll”). Of course, the legendary punk rocker was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, but that's just another feather in her cap at this point.

3. Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin might be the biggest name in the history of female rockers, particularly for someone whose mainstream career only lasted about three years. As the soulful womanly voice of the counterculture during the late '60s, Joplin's untimely death led her to become an immortal legend and member of “the 27 Club.” For the rest of human civilization, Joplin will be viewed as the female face of one of the greatest cultural movements in American history.

2. Patti Smith
Before there were hipsters, there was Patti Smith. Unlike today's hipsters, Smith covered everything from poetry to punk rock, and she pretty much dominated all of it. She's part artsy intellectual and part rebellious punk, but Smith is all awesome. Sure, she might not be as big of a name as some of the ones preceding her on this list, but there are very few people out there who have even a single bad word to say about her. As far as writing ability and “coolness” both go, there are very few people who can say they're on Smith's level, regardless of sex.

1. Courtney Love
To build a perfect rock star, there are several crucial ingredients: musical talent, physical attractiveness, tumultuous relationships, substance abuse, and public meltdowns, just to name a few. These days, Love seems to have rebounded from her epic tailspin and has leveled out in a slightly more normal manner, but there's no doubt that her life to date is the type of story people wouldn't believe in a novel or a movie. Maybe she's best known as the First Lady of grunge, but Hole's Live Through This should be considered one of the best albums of the era, and Pretty on the Inside is awfully good too. She'll likely never step out of Kurt Cobain's shadow, but that shouldn't stop her from being viewed as a rock 'n' roll legend all her own. As if her music, controversies, collapse, and historic romance weren't enough to make her one of the greatest rockers to ever live, she worked as a stripper when she first started Hole, and even Ziggy Stardust didn't do that.

See also:
The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene
The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene
The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List

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