Until the late 1960s, the world of rock and roll was dominated by male singers; but along came Janis Joplin—number one on our list of the 10 best female rock vocalists of all time—and the idea of a female fronting a band was no longer a stretch. It is now hard to imagine rock music without the contributions of the 10 ladies on our list.
- Janis Joplin. The voice of rock and roll in the late ‘60s, Janis Joplin holds the top spot on our list of great female rock vocalists. Blessed with a gritty, raspy, hard-edged sound uncommon among female singers of her time, she knocked down barriers and opened doors for generations of women who were born to front rock bands.
- Chrissie Hynde. A mixture of tough and sexy in sound and appearance, the lead vocalist and guitarist of the new-wave band the Pretenders is among the greatest singers in rock history. After flying solo for awhile, Chrissie Hynde went back to fronting the band that brought such ‘80s hits as “Brass in Pocket” and “Back on the Chain Gang.”
- Patti Smith. The “Godmother of Punk” may not be as widely known as many of the other names on this list, but there is little doubt Patti Smith is one of the best female rock vocalists of all time. Her 1975 debut album “Horses” ranks as number 44 on "Rolling Stone" magazine’s 500 greatest albums of all time.
- Grace Slick. Her strong, clear, deep vocals provided the signature sound of San Francisco psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane. Her booming voice in classic songs like “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” leave no doubt that Grace Slick is one of the best female vocalists in rock history.
- Stevie Nicks. As part of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks’ distinct voice and songwriting skills made her stand out above her talented fellow band mates. And just like the white winged dove, she flew off to a successful solo career, piling up numerous hits and gaining recognition as one of the best female rock singers of all time.
- Ann Wilson. In the 1970s, the Wilson sisters brought a sexy vibe to the world of hard rock. Paired with her sizzling hot younger sister Nancy on guitar, Ann Wilson was the voice of the band Heart. Her sexy, powerful vocals in such classics as “Barracuda” earn Ann her recognition as a great female rock vocalist.
- Tina Turner. With her husband Ike, Tina Turner brought a hard-edged soul sound to rock and roll back in the ‘60s. Because she never, ever did anything nice and easy, her cover of the Credence Clearwater classic “Proud Mary” helped establish her as one of the greatest female vocalists in rock history.
- Pat Benatar. This sexy ‘80s star was a heartbreaker every time she stepped on stage and belted out songs seemingly too big for such a petite woman. Paired with her husband and lead guitarist, Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar boasts a solid position as one of the top female rock vocalists of all time.
- Melissa Etheridge. Her rock hero is Bruce Springsteen, and you can hear his influence in Melissa Etheridge’s style. Blessed with the kind of hard, gritty voice ideal for rock and roll, the Oscar and two-time Grammy winner is among the greatest female rock vocalists in music history.
- Debbie Harry. The lead singer of Blondie helped bring the new-wave sound of the ‘70s to popular music. With bleach-blonde hair, heavy makeup and sexy clothing, Debbie Harry may have looked a bit like a hooker, but the lady sure could sing, and ranks among the best female rock vocalists of all time.
What Others Are Reading Right Now.
Acting, comedy and strong spirits converge in Speakeasy. When host Paul F. Tompkins interviews entertainers—Key and Peele, Alison Brie, Rob Delaney, Zach Galifianakis—about all sor ...
What to Drink on Labor Day
Seven options to see out the summer with style. And by style we mean a cool buzz.
10 Things to Talk About This Weekend
A 99-pack and nine other nuggets of conversational fodder.