Rubbing off the Lipstick: Women Who Redefined Rock Music

The Smiths. Led Zeppelin. Queen. To many, these are the faces of rock music. However, what this picture often leaves out is the countless number of women who have stood under the same spotlights and transformed the rock industry through their music. From tearing apart gender and racial stereotypes to inspiring entire musical movements, these women have left their mark on the music world. Check out the profiles below on some of rock's leading ladies, and hover over their profile pictures to see them in action. If you would like to hear some of their music, follow the link on their names.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin is a female rock icon like no other. Known for her growling, dynamic voice, Joplin became one of the legends of the 1960s and 1970s music scene. Her music combined blues, folk and psychedelic rock. Joplin first started singing professionally with Big Brother and the Holding Company, with whom she recorded Cheap Thrills, an album that stayed at the number one spot on music charts for eight weeks. After her time with Big Brother, she went solo, creating two albums: 1969's I've Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! and the posthumously released Pearl. She performed at the infamous Woodstock festival and is known for songs like "Piece of My Heart" and "Cry Baby." She is one of the most influential singers in musical history, and inspired artists like Stevie Nicks. Rock critic Lillian Roxon said she, "perfectly expressed the feelings and yearnings of the girls of the electric generation – to be all woman, yet equal with men; to be free, yet a slave to real love; to [reject] every outdated convention, and yet get back to the basics of life.”

Stevie Nicks

Besides being one of the infamous singers of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks has also transformed into a successful solo artist in the last few years. Coined as one of the 100 greatest singers by Rolling Stone magazine, Nicks is often known for her powerful, emotional voice. Her work influenced later female artists, including Courtney Love, the Dixie Chicks, and Vanessa Carlton. Nicks officially joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, and one of their most influential albums was 1977's Rumours. Rumours spawned multiple Top 10 hits including "Dreams" and "Don't Stop. "Nicks also has had a productive solo career, with albums like 1981's Bella Donna, which hit number one on the Billboard 200 chart. More than anything else, Nicks has become a role model for female musicians and singers. Her poetic and emotionally resonant lyrics, dynamic voice, and unique stage appearance have helped her leave a mark on rock and pop music. In a 2007 interview with Slant magazine, Carlton spoke about touring with Stevie Nicks. She said that Nicks, "can be this all-knowing woman that's kind of mentoring you but also like just the funnest chick to hang out with."

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, known as the "Queen of Soul," is one of the most important female figures in music history. Throughout her career, she has earned a Presidential Medal of Freedom honor, more than 15 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Grammy Living Legend Award. She was also the first woman to gain entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her bombastic voice and immense stage presence have influenced hordes of female artists, including Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Hudson. Franklin started singing gospel in her father's church, and after signing to Atlantic Records, she achieved commercial success. She is known for hits like "Respect," "Do Right Woman-Do Right Man," and "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)." Franklin's music touched many genres, including gospel, soul, and the blues. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Franklin has been the voice behind 43 Top Forty singles since 1961. Franklin also used her musical talents for the civil rights movement. According to Nikki Giovanni in Matt Dobkin's book, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You: Aretha Franklin, Respect, and the Making of a Soul Music Masterpiece, Franklin was "the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America."

Joan Jett

No list of female rock icons would be complete without Joan Jett. Although she started off as a member of The Runaways, an all-girl band, Jett is most famous for her solo career with her band the Blackhearts. Although her first solo album, Bad Reputation, did not sell well, her second album climbed the charts with the roaring rock anthem, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." In fact, the song hit the number one spot on the charts in 1982. After this album, Jett experienced many highs and lows in her career, with one high point being her 1988 album Up Your Alley. This album included chart hits like "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and "Little Liar." Jett is most known as a symbol of women rockers and the Riot Grrrl movement. Rolling Stone also named her one of the greatest guitarists of all time, a title that only one other woman received from the magazine. Jett has also been known as a feminist icon during her career. In a 2010 article from the New York Post, Jett said, when speaking about a book about her life, "...It all seems to go back to that sort of determination I had about being told the things you can't do because you're a girl. That never made sense to me because these girls are playing violin and cello, playing Beethoven and Bach — so what do you mean they can’t play rock ’n’ roll? To me, what you’re saying is it’s a social thing. You’re not allowed to play rock ’n’ roll because of what rock ’n’ roll implies, and that’s sexuality, and women aren’t allowed to own their sexuality."

Patti Smith

Patti Smith startled the rock scene in the 1970s with her debut album, Horses, which fused poetry with rock music. Smith moved to New York in 1967, where she dabbled in poetry, music, and music journalism. Her debut album, Horses, arrived in 1975, and she released several albums after that landmark release, including Radio Ethiopia and 1978's Easter. She has been nicknamed the 'godmother of punk' and according to a 2012 article about her life from The Guardian, her debut was "the catalyst for punk...the songs are full of the ecstatic violence of things being shattered in order to be remade." She has influenced many artists since her punk days, including Shirley Manson of Garbage, Martha Wainwright, and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. According to Marr in The Guardian, "She has always put out the vibe that art and rock 'n' roll are in the same place if you want it and know where to look." Besides her musical contributions to punk, Smith has also used music to talk about politics, with songs centering on issues like the attack of Qana in Lebanon. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Alanis Morissette

More than anything else, Alanis Morissette is known for her early days of female rage with her international debut album, Jagged Little Pill, which sold 16 million copies in the United States. Rolling Stone called her in their biography of the artist as "the undisputed queen of alt-rock angst." Jagged Little Pill helped Morissette gain four Grammy Awards. Although she has made several albums since Pill like 1998's Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and 2002's Under Rug Swept, it is unarguably her most famous work to date. Her debut brought female anger into the public eye, and its blunt, emotionally raw lyrics about relationships and sex were revolutionary. In a 2012 interview with Morissette in TimeOut New York, she said, "The two feelings that I [was told I] could not feel were sadness and anger. Sadness includes depression and despair and despondency, and anger includes mere frustration or rage. Those are the two big ones I think we’re told as women that we can’t [feel]."

"Other people will call me a rebel, but I just feel like I'm living my life and doing what I want to do. Sometimes people call that rebellion, especially when you're a woman. A guy knowing what he wants is a leader. A woman knows what she wants, and she's a bitch."--Joan Jett

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