I’ve always loved a great female singer, so much so that the guys I worked with at the local indie store used to give me shit about it. This is probably the hardest of all the lists for me to only pick my 10 favorites – ok, I only got it down to 11.
There are so many talented female singers out that this list could change from day to day. So, here’s what I came up with, in no particular order.
What can you say about the Aretha Franklin that hasn’t been said? Nothing really. She is the original Queen of Soul.
In the 1980’s Pat Benatar was everywhere and I loved every minute of it. Hit after hit was a classic rock song and video for her. You could say MTV took Pat to another level with her rock sound and it fit perfectly at the time. She is still rocking, mostly greatest hits-type tours and she has said she is perfectly fine with that. She was known for not taking any shit and that was treading thin ice in a male-dominated industry back then, you have to really admire the trails she blazed for women in music.
If anyone defines the indie music spirit, it is one Miss Ani DiFranco. I got into the Buffalo native’s music late into the game with her album Dilate, but once I did discover Ani, I was head over heels. Ani was pure Do-It-Yourself, even turning down major labels left and right. Though her last few albums aren’t as good as her earlier work, she still has that indie spirit after all these years.
Nina Gordon and Louise Post (Veruca Salt)
I have to admit, I feel a little cheated when it comes to Nina Gordon and Louise Post, the dynamic guitar slinging duo from the 1990’s rock band Veruca Salt. The ladies only recorded two albums together – 1994 American Thighs and 1997 Eight Arms to Hold You – and imploded over….let’s say personal differences. Sure Louise carried on with Veruca Salt releasing some great hard rock records, but the magic she had with Nina on Eight Arms was just a tease of the amazing rock they could have created. Sure, they will be forever known for “Seether” but that song is just a speck of sand in the great song catalog.
Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave)
I have a profound respect and admiration for Kristin Hersh, not only musically but personally. After more than 20 years, she has battled major labels, battle trends and inner demons and has kept on making some of the best music of the last 20 years. And the funny thing, she does it with three bands – three complete different bands. If she is feeling acoustic she puts out a solo album, if she is feeling indie rock, she’s got Throwing Muses and if she wants to strap on the Les Paul, she’s got 50 Foot Wave and with all three she brings a punk rock attitude. One top of that she’s a mother, a wife, a homeschool teacher and lord only knows what else. I don’t see how she does it all, but I am glad she does.
Joan Jett (The Runaways, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts)
I don’t know how she does it, but she does. You really can’t say Joan Jett reinvents herself because she’s been playing the same kick ass rock ‘n’ roll ever since the Runaways broke up. Not many artists last as long as Joan and rarely is there an artists that can fit in with the metal of the 80s, and the grunge of the 90s to the punk of the 2000’s and solidify her legacy of today. Everyone loves and respects Joan Jett and her music, as it should be.
I wonder if Janis wasn’t so hell bent and tortured would she have been a great singer. It’s hard to say really. Janis was in a world of all her own and had one of the most powerful voices of all time, unfortunately her time was short-lived. She commanded a song and took the stage like she owned the place. Everyone knew when Janis was on stage.
Shirley Manson (Angelfish, Garbage)
I am unsure why but Garbage was on the Canadian music channel Much Music before anyone knew about them. Luckily I got that channel and was blown away by not only Shirley but the band in general. A redhead girl from Scotland fronting a band which had three record producers? How obscure, but it worked. Shirley reminds me of a throwback singer. She has balls. She has sass and a perfect rock voice to front this band.
Jonnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde, Pretty & Twisted, Vowel Movement)
As the bass playing front woman of Concrete Blonde, Johnette is a rare breed. She makes ghosts, Mexican moons and drug overdoses sound sexy. Sometimes I think she is Janis Joplin’s spirit the way she belts out her powerful vocals and no-nonsense attitude. She is a 21-Century woman who can play bass, sing, play guitar, write songs, paint, write books, a tattoo artists and even save time to rescue animals.
Ann and Nancy Wilson (Heart)
The first song I think of when someone says Ann Wilson is “Crazy On You.” What a range she had and still has. Then add to that her Nancy singing beautiful harmonies and sometimes taking the lead, it’s no wonder Heart is one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The first sisters of rock were an original bad ass singer/songwriting team that made no excuses and are rock royalty.