Marianne Faithfull has been a superstar at least three times. After debuting the classic As Tears Go By in 1964, she became one of the symbols of swinging London before succumbing to the dangers of the lifestyle. 1979’s Broken English was a masterpiece, however, and Faithfull is one of the few ‘famous for being famous’ stars whose work actually thrives on its own merits.
As founder and frontwoman of Bikini Kill, Hanna is often cited – both by her peers and historical folklore – as riot grrrl’s chief instigator. Spawned from the DIY zines and art galleries of Olympia and Washington, D.C., Hanna and her cohorts lead a punk-inspired movement based on equal parts fuck you attitude and an unwavering belief in music’s ability to affect positive change in the world.
It’s harder to find a more consummate rockstar standing today than Joan Jett. The voice, the attitude, the look… If you cut through the Runaways-guitarist-turned-Blackhearts leader, she’d bleed rock’n’roll – which, given that she turned Alan Merrill’s I Love Rock’n’Roll into the immortal anthem it is today, is actually quite plausible.
Often overlooked in favour of Nirvana and co, and dismissed by some as ‘the band with the singer who threw her tampon out’ (onstage at Reading, 1992), L7 were actually one of the heaviest, most commanding acts to emerge from late 80s/early 90s grunge.
At a time when rock music seemed suffocatingly male-dominated, Brody Dalle and her band The Distillers gave mainstream punk the kick up the arse it desperately needed, providing a voice for the forgotten women of mid-00s alternative while they were at it. A formidable frontwoman, her aggressive, visceral guitar style saw her become the first woman ever to star solo on the cover of Total Guitar Magazine.
Originally part of Olympia’s riot grrrl scene, Sleater-Kinney – AKA Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein – channeled the movement’s political energy into a sound which became increasingly innovative with each album. Furious, bold and direct even in their most gentle moments of introspection, their back catalogue is one of indie rock’s most fantastically diverse, influential, and beyond all, essential.
Babes In Toyland
The myth that women struggle to rock as hard as men should have been dispelled with the advent of Kat Bjelland and her guttural, eye-watering snarl, but there we go. With Babes In Toyland, Bjelland and her bandmates mixed the best elements of heavy metal, punk rock and Seattle grunge, their uninhibited influence audible in everything from Bikini Kill to Paramore.
For 14 years, Angela Gossow led Swedish wrecking crew Arch Enemy into battle, turning conventions of female vocalists on their head with her savage growls and roars. Now, Alissa White-Gluz is at the helm, picking up Angela’s mantle and flying the flag for female metal vocalists everywhere, as the well-oiled death metal machine continues to crush arenas around the world.
The writer of more than 100 hit singles, Carole King also achieved extraordinary success as a recording artist – 1971’s Tapestry has sold more than 10 million copies – and as a solo artist, drawing 60,000 fans to London’s Hyde Park to hear the album played live four decades after its initial release.
Sharon den Adel
The arena-levelling symphonic goths Within Temptation aren’t just one of the most successful bands from the Netherlands, they’ve sold millions of albums around the world. Vocalist, songwriter and founding member Sharon den Adel can be thanked for this, with her vast vocal range and enigmatic stage presence. She’s also exercising her poptastic muscle with solo project My Indigo, whose debut album arrived in 2018.