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Top Ten Most Influential Women in Rock and Punk

Updated on July 20, 2016
Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin
Deborah Harry
Deborah Harry
Wendy O'Williams
Wendy O'Williams
Patti Smith
Patti Smith
Siouxsie Sioux
Siouxsie Sioux
Kim Gordon
Kim Gordon
Grace Slick
Grace Slick
Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks

Female Pioneers of Rock and Punk

A male dominated industry from its beginning, rock and punk have crowned its kings from Elvis to The Sex Pistols. All ignited a movement that inspired a whole new wave of female fans, who broke down the walls of gender bias and started rocking. All of these women were an inspiration who would send a ripple effect through the industry and change the face of rock and punk forever.

1) Joan Jett

From the moment The Runaways belted out Ch Ch Ch Cherry Bomb, a whole new generation of teenage girls were inspired and empowered by the heavy hitting guitar lines, tough attitude, and sneer of Joan Jett. Her legacy spawned a vast array of female musicians to push the barriers and play as equals in a male dominated world. Still rocking out in her 50's and still holding down her reign, Joan Jett became the founder of Blackheart Records, which has signed a whole new generation of female rockers.

2) Janis Joplin

Singing the blues with her strong raspy voice and heavy songs of love and betrayal, Janis Joplin is a classic iconic figure in the face of rock and roll legends. Starting out with Big Brother and the Holding Company and later launching a solo career, she quickly became known as the 'Queen of Psychedelic Rock'. Rolling Stone crowned her no.28 on the Top 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list and her untimely voice will long inspire female singer-songwriters years after her death.

3) Deborah Harry

Breaking out onto the punk and new wave scene in New York City in the mid 1970s, Deborah Harry became the front woman of Blondie. Incorporating different genres like pop, disco and reggae into their music, Blondie became an iconic figure in the underground New York punk and newly emerging new wave scene. Frontwoman, Deborah Harry is widely known for her stunning sex appeal and fashion sense-making her a heavy influence on the female rock goddess revolution.

4) Wendy O'Williams

Queen of shock rock with her eye popping theatrics, including chainsaws and almost nude attire, lead singer Wendy O'Williams of The Plasmatics, stunned the world of rock. Arrested for simulating sex on stage and charged with obscene conduct, she formed an image that broke all the rules and set a standard for many female artists to use their music as a form of art and radical expression.

5) Patti Smith

As G-l-o-r-i-a Gloria rang out into the streets in the mid-seventies, the androgynous voice of Patti Smith changed the whole perception on punk. Her debut album in 1975 Horses became a rock and roll manual for every emerging teenage female musician. Patti Smith fused poetry and rock together developing an expressive story of life drawn from her personal experiences and was one of the pioneers that formed the art-punk scene in New York City. Known as the "Godmother of Punk", she has become a spiritual leader and American icon for her passionate lyricism and her contribution to feminine empowerment through music.

6) Siouxsie Sioux

Lead singer of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Siouxsie Sioux became one of the most influential women in British rock and punk. With her early influences from David Bowie, Iggy Pop and the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux transformed herself into a glam punk pin-up. Flaunting her outlandish style with spiky stilettos, black latex, and painted face, she became a female icon for the emerging punk scene in London. Siouxsie Sioux has become noted as the "Queen of Goth and Punk" with her darkly mesmerizing lyrics and style, spawning many female performers to take on the realms of punk.

7) Kim Gordon

In 1981, Sonic Youth became a part of the No-Wave art and music scene forming in New York City. Using a variety of altered guitar sounds and altered tuning, lead singer Kim Gordon, became a female rock pioneer. Side by side with her husband and founding member, Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth became an underground, alt-rock sensation. Currently on hiatus and with the recent split with Moore, KIm Gordon has moved on to other projects currently with guitarist Bill Nace in the new noise group, Body/Head that released their debut album Coming Apart in 2013.

8) Grace Slick

Most widely known as the lead front woman of Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick moved the hippie generation with a new emerging sound in the 60's called acid rock. Known as one of the most popular women in rock, she helped redefine the role women had in music. Her sex appeal and unconventional vocals gave way to many female fans wanting to aspire and follow in her foot steps.

9) Stevie Nicks

The mystique, the magic, the leather, the lace, the modern day gypsy-the unforgettable Stevie Nicks. Becoming an iconic female figure in rock after joining Fleetwood Mac in 1974 and launching her solo career in 1981, Stevie Nicks has surpassed the level of rock goddess stature and is still touring and releasing albums well into her sixties.

10) Suzi Quatro

Starting at age 14 forming an all female band with her sisters, The Pleasure Seekers, Suzi Quatro became a very important part of rock and roll. Personally responsible for heavily influencing the Runaways along with Joan Jett and for many other aspiring female artist around the world. She became a part of one of the first nationally recognized all female bands, Fanny, and later went on to a solo career, having many charted hits in Europe and later in the United States. Suzi Quatro squashed the innocence and sweetness of the other female performers of her era and proved it's possible to be a rocking, black leather bound, bass playing, feminine force to reckon with.


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    • sg1268 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Ford 

      5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      I love Heart and I think they are very influential! I also think Nina Hagen, Grace Jones, Joan Baez, Tina Turner, Pat Benetar and many others are too...but this it's only a top ten list! Thanks for the input!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Where in the bloody hell is Heart ??????You people missed the boat ! It should have been Janis then then Heart the Wilson Sisters No .2 !

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      ilove kim gordon.she damn sexy

    • sg1268 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Ford 

      7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Yes, I agree! There are so many other women that should have fit into this list and choosing ten was difficult! Maybe I should make a new article of ten 'more' influential women of Rock and Punk! Thank you for your input!

    • acc12 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great article. Other additions could be Nico from the Velvet Underground ("Femme Fatale"), Annie Lennox from the Eurythmics ("Would I Lie To You"), and Bassist Tina Weymouth from the Talking Heads ("Take Me To The River").

    • Carolus profile image


      7 years ago from USA /Portugal

      I love Jett and Harry! They rock! Very fun article.


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