Tag Archives: women’s history month

Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock…Grrrls of the 90s

22 Mar

Ah, alas, we have arrived at the 90s, a time period rife with fierce female energy and feminine manifestos lamenting bad break-ups and their rightful place in a world dominated by men. It was a decade that featured a sexy pool of female talent; females who weren’t going to sit quietly in a corner looking frail and weepy. No, these women weren’t going to take men’s shit any longer, in fact, they were going to sing about the shit their men put them through, immortalizing their feminist woes and the men who’d done them wrong forever in song.


Click to watch “You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette – Morissette stood apart from the grunge movement that consumed the whole of the 90s, and, truth be told, she stood apart from everyone, claiming her own corner of the music industry with Jagged Little Pill and the hell-hath-no-fury anthem, “You Oughta Know,” an angst-ridden confessional that is lyrically courageous, fierce, expository and vulnerable. She became the radio-friendly poster girl for angry young women, leading the way for many of the ladies listed here to sing the same.


Click to watch “Stupid Girl”

Shirley Manson – Hottie? Check. Sexy accent? Check. Perfect blend of delicate songbird and badass frontwoman? Double, triple check. Dressed in the uniform of the 90s: melancholy pout, short skirts, fishnets and combat boots, Shirley Manson played the part of Misery Chick well as singer for the band Garbage. She’s made headlines recently showing her supreme support for Record Store Day, saying, “(Record Store Day) promotes the belief that time spent exploring a small, lovingly curated record store, discovering artists, music and ideas can arm you against anything that ever threatens to overwhelm or engulf you.”

nina and louise

Click to watch Veruca Salt’s “Shutterbug”

Veruca Salt – Besties Louise Post and Nina Gordon would stand side by side belting out songs like “Seether” and “Volcano Girl” onstage every night and then retreat to their hotel rooms where the pair would talk for hours on the phone. A falling out between the two fractured the group, reducing Veruca Salt to a tragic platonic love story and silencing, in my eyes, one of the best bands to come out of the 90s (see Eight Arms to Hold You).

polly jean2

Click to watch “Rid of Me”

PJ Harvey – While “Down by the Water” and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea are more my speed, Harvey’s Rid of Me is a stand-out. Adding to the list of crazy ex-girlfriend albums (see Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair), her pure, unadulterated fury and unabashed raw power is spilled across this Steve Albini-produced gemstone.


Click to watch “Zombie”

Dolores O’Riordan – As frontwoman for the Cranberries, O’Riordan’s aggro-Irish lilt cuts like glass, and her pixie-esque frame only adds to the wonderment that such a big sound can come out of such a tiny person.


Click to watch “I’m Just a Girl”

Gwen Stefani – Cloaked in a cutesy vocal trill and pseudo-bashful, eyelash-batting stare, Gwen Stefani asked to “take this pink ribbon off my eyes” in the irony heavy, “I’m Just a Girl.” As a result, she removed the pink ribbon from many women’s eyes. Stefani stood far apart from her grunge girl counterparts, fronting the ska-heavy No Doubt, but she still showed lyrical sister solidarity and staying power, going on to become a fashion icon and designer, successful solo artist and one in a string of celebrity singers whose husbands were referred to as Mr. (Insert Female Moniker), with the honor for Mr. Gwen Stefani going to hottie rocker, Gavin Rossdale.


Click to watch Hole’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”


Hole – Courtney Love may be the train wreck everyone can’t turn away from, but she’s got her toehold in music history, nonetheless, and it’s firmly rooted in the 90s. As frontwoman for the 75% female band Hole (alongside equally as kick-ass  rockers, if not more so, Melissa Auf der Maur and Patty Shemel), Love is considered by some to be a modern day Yoko Ono, but she’s also a no-holds-barred rock chick who gave an outside voice to every woman’s inner dialogue and spawned a legion of girls dressed as broken dolls just like her.

bikini kill

Click to watch “Rebel Girl”

Bikini Kill – Responsible for spawning the riot grrrl, movement, Bikini Kill were a punk rock feminist quartet with Runaways leanings, which can be heard all over the Joan Jett produced “Rebel Girl.” Lead vocalist Kathleen Hanna is married to a Beastie (Ad-Rock), dated Dave Grohl, started Riot Grrrl, a fanzine that spawned the movement of the same name, and is the person who scribbled “Smells like Teen Spirit” on Kurt Cobain’s wall. I don’t really need to say what came of that, do I?


Click to watch “Pretend We’re Dead”

L7 – L7 formed in the 80s but were easily rolled into the fold of the grunge movement alongside other female-heavy acts Hole and Bikini Kill. Although their act was full of tampon flinging and dropping trough on national TV, the ladies of L7 ultimately wielded their power for good and started Rock for Choice, a pro-choice organization.

liz phair2

Click to watch “Supernova”

Liz Phair – Gender bender Liz Phair wasn’t afraid to tackle taboo topics and sing about subject matter once deemed unbecoming of a lady to talk about. Her Exile in Guyville is like a raw nerve stroke of genius. Another post-break-up nugget, Guyville was also a response to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, each song on Guyville meant to parallel each track on the famous Stones album.


Click here to watch “My Favorite Mistake”

Sheryl Crow – A dirty-hot vibe, growling rasp, and impressive cadre of  collaborations, the former back-up singer for the King of Pop decided to forgo the angry young woman route traveled by so many of the ladies listed here and struck a balance between standing her ground and exposing her soft underbelly in a, musically, very straightforward way. Instead of screaming about how her man had done her wrong, Crow begged the question, “Are you strong enough to be my man?”

kim deal 2

Click to watch the Breeders’ “Cannonball”

Kim Deal – For the first two Pixies’ albums, bassist Kim Deal went by Mrs. John Murphy, a name chosen as an ironic feminist joke. Her stint as Mrs. John Murphy may have put her on the map, but “Cannonball” off the second album Last Splash by the Breeders, the band she started with twin sister, Kelley, shot her into the mainstream. 


Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock: Ladies of the 80s

15 Mar

Oh, the sweet, blessed 80s heaped with big hair, leather and anything goes. We’re walking right into my wheelhouse with this decade, having been weaned on the teat of MTV, and the Ladies of the 80s were too. This was a time when musicians weren’t just heard but seen. Image was everything, and artists were now faced with the task of making music videos to propel their hit songs. What emerged was a handful of women who became iconic for their voices, their talent and their keen fashion sense.

pat b

Click to watch Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run”

Pat Benatar – Benatar was in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV. In fact, “You Better Run” was the second music video to air on the network right behind the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Her killer mezzo-soprano voice not only cracked the glass ceiling in a male-dominated medium, it shattered it down to the ground.


Click to watch the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket”

Chrissie Hynde – Read Chrissie Hynde’s take on How to Be a Lady Rocker. Enough said.

joan jett

Click to watch a clip of Joan Jett & Michael J. Fox in Light of Day


Click to watch Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly”

Joan Jett and Lita Ford – Post-Runaways, Joan Jett and Lita Ford went their separate ways in near every sense of the word. Lita Ford went the slick, sexy, metal maiden route while Joan Jett went down the road of straightforward, ballsy rock n’ roll.

annie lennox

Click to watch the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams”

Annie Lennox – Lennox is synonymous with the word androgyny during her stint as lead singer for the Eurythmics in the 80s. Her signature orange buzz cut and uniform of tailored men’s suits are still replicated in fashion today, but Lennox didn’t wear short hair or men’s suits because she wanted to be a man. She once said to Grazia Magazine, “I wanted to wear a suit to show that I am equal to a man, not that I wanted to be one, or that I was gay — which is what it was interpreted as…but there you go.”

siouxsie sioux

Click to watch Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden”

Siouxsie Sioux – Siouxsie Sioux was an authentic outcast, an original misfit doll rocking the punk scene in the late 70s and 80s, who spawned a look mirrored in modern day musicians like PJ Harvey and Karen O. Siouxsie and the Banshees had a much farther reach with their sound, influencing U2, the Cure, Jane’s Addiction, Santigold, LCD Soundsystem and a dozen others.  

sonic youth

Click to hear Sonic Youth’s “Star Power”

Kim Gordon – Sonic Youth was labeled alt-rock when they staked their claim on the musical landscape in the early 80s, but when Grunge infiltrated…just about everything a decade later, Sonic Youth became the genre’s First Family. Bassist and singer Kim Gordon was one of the original Riot Grrrls, wearing baby doll dresses and swimming in her oversized cardis long before Grunge not only became a music movement, but a fashion one, as well. 


Click to watch the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed”


Click to watch the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter”

The Go-Go’s and The Bangles – At the onset, the Go-Go’s were all raunch and punk, the Bangles were retro garage rock and Paisley Underground, but both bands became polished pop sweethearts proving chicks with guitars could rock as hard as the boys.

cyndi lauper

Click to watch Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”

Cyndi Lauper – “Girls just wanna have fun, but some of us wanna be in a rock band, too!” Lauper said as host of the PBS documentary, Women Who Rock. Lauper was a crazy technicolor mashup of those who inspired her to become rock star. Stevie Nicks, Ann and Nancy Wilson, the Runaways and Deborah Harry were all in there, mixed together and creating a style in Cyndi Lauper that was entirely individual and new.


Click to watch Vixen’s “Edge of a Broken Heart”

Vixen – Upon finding this picture of Vixen, a one-hit wonder all-female Hair Metal band, I fully realized how much androgyny was going on with the 80s Hair Metal scene. I mean, yes, no duh, the guys in Poison and Motley Crue definitely had the “Dude Looks Like a Lady” thing licked, but the ladies in Vixen kind of had a whole  “Girls who are boys/who like boys to be girls” vibe going on.

I went back and forth about mentioning one more lady from the 80s, and perhaps the lady of the 80s. The women who have found their way onto this list have helped shaped my sphere of influence, and those who know me would think I’ve fallen and bumped my head had I not mentioned one woman in particular. While I think she rocks, she is not, technically, a woman who rocks, so I’ll simply say this…

“There’s only one queen and that’s…”

madge vogue

Click to watch Madonna’s 1990 MTV Awards performance of “Vogue”

Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock: Sirens of the 60s & 70s

8 Mar

This month is Women’s History Month, and today, specifically, is International Women’s Day. In honor of that fact, I’m putting a Rock is a Verb spin on it by kicking off a Women Who Rock series, starting with a few of the fairer sexed powerhouses from the 1960s and 70s who unarguably started the Women Who Rock movement.

patti smith

Click to watch Patti Smith perform “Gloria” on SNL

Patti Smith – Patti Smith was a poet who fused her prose and music to become the reigning “Godmother of Punk.” An amazing talent with the written word, “Horses” has found its way onto many a greatest albums list, and her memoir “Just Kids” is not only a great read, but is a New York Times Bestseller list maker, as well.

grace slick

Click to watch Jefferson Airplane perform “White Rabbit” live at Woodstock

Grace Slick – Slick was and is one of the most prominent rock females, fronting Jefferson Airplane and several of its various incarnations. When the band rocketed to stardom after converting from folk to psychedelia, Slick lived the rock n’ roll stereotype loaded with sex, drugs and controversy. Among other things, she was one of the first people to drop the f-bomb on live television, on the Dick Cavett Show in  1969.


Click to see Fleetwood Mac perform “Gold Dust Woman” live

Stevie Nicks – Standing just over five feet tall, Stevie Nicks defines small but mighty. She found success with Fleetwood Mac in 1970s and as a solo artist in the 80s, 90s and even now, lending her signature deep rasp to countless hits and collaborations. 

early heart

Click to watch Heart perform “Barracuda”

Ann & Nancy Wilson – Ever hear the old adage “your not famous until the gay rumors start?” Well, even the Wilson sisters weren’t immune to that one. The preposterous notion that not only were they gay but they were sisters and gay lovers couldn’t stop these two from rising above the ridiculous rumor and rocking to stardom well into the 80s.

debbie harry

Click to watch the music video for “Call Me” featuring Richard Gere in American Gigolo

Debbie Harry – Punk, New Wave, Disco…Debbie Harry was all of these things wrapped in sexy, sultry, streetwise package. Her signature two-toned hair contributed to the confusion that she, not her band, was Blondie, sparking a “Blondie is a Band” button campaign. No matter, the band’s early presence and heavy rotation on MTV solidified Debbie Harry as a rock icon.  

the runaways

Click to watch a live performance of “Queens of Noise”

The Runaway – These Queens of Noise may have been one of the first all-female rock bands to come out of the United States, but they hardly found any love here. Popular overseas, most notably in Japan, the Runaways released four albums and went out on one headlining tour. Their influence perhaps transcended their popularity and can be heard all over the likes of the Go-Go’s, L7, the Donnas and Hole. The Runaways are like a good bad movie, but notable rock frontierswomen, nonetheless. Speaking of good bad movies, the Runaways biopic featuring Michael Shannon, Dakota Fanning and KStew, much as I hate to admit it, is worth checking out. 


Click to hear “All is Loneliness” by Big Brother and the Holding Company

Janis Joplin – Joplin passed away of a heroin overdose in 1970, making her a woman who rocked in the 1960s, but there can’t really be a list like this without giving Joplin a shout-out. Although she repeatedly sang about loneliness, sonically, Joplin had it all – vulnerability, strength and a voice that rose up and was heard.

And going back one more decade, I need to make mention of the Queen of Rock(abilly), Wanda Jackson. One of the first crossover artists, Jackson noticed the changing tide in her genre early on in her career and fused country music with rockabilly to find commercial success in the 1950s and 60s. Jackson is still rocking to this day, most recently with the King of Collaborations, Jack White.

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