Women's Day: Meet the Music Industry Game Changers
Published on 08 March 2021
In honour of International Women’s Day, we’d like to recognise the powerful, talented game-changers that have challenged the expectations of their gender and redefined the role of the female performer for future generations.
In what has historically been made a male-dominated industry, there have been many innovative and groundbreaking female musicians who have paved the way for women in modern music. Below is a list of some of our favourite influential female artists, who have kicked down doors and not taken no for an answer.
We’d also like to say thank you for the outstanding contribution of the women of guitarguitar. We appreciate you all - whether you’re in stores or behind the scenes, we hope you all keep on changing the game.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Meet the Godmother of Rock & Roll. Sister Rosetta’s talents were evident from a young age, playing the guitar from the age of 4 and joining a troupe of evangelical musicians with her mother that toured across the southern states of America, displaying and honing her natural talent. As she got older, she started to develop her own unique sound. While the biggest influence on her sound was the gospel music that she was surrounded by growing up, she added in her own influences, pulling from the sounds of Rhythm and Blues, Jazz and Swing music, and using her guitar to bust out pretty mean solos and showcase her distinctive picking techniques.
Sister Rosette defied all expectations of her gender. People who watched her perform would often comment on how Rosetta “played like a man”, to which replied “Can’t no man play like me. I play better than a man.” The sounds of Sister Rosetta would go on to influence the careers of early rock and roll musicians including Little Richard, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.
Known as the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald is known for her tone, outstanding diction, scat singing… oh and not forgetting her 3-octave vocal range too. After turning to singing and using her voice to express herself after a troubled childhood, Ella went on to become one of the most renowned Jazz singers of all time.
However, Ella was more than her First Lady of Song title, as she also broke down racial barriers with her voice. She was the first African American woman to win a Grammy and was one of the first African American female singers to perform during the Halftime Super Bowl show in 1972. During her career, she recorded over 200 albums, won 14 Grammy Awards and sold over 40 million albums. Now, that's how you do it!
Heard a great song? It’s probably been written by Carole King. Starting out her career in the late 1950s as a writer, Carole King made her name by co-writing The Shirelles hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow, alongside lyricist Gerry Goffin. The track became the first No.1 in history for an African American girl group and was the catalyst for Carole’s extraordinary career.
After this success, Carole made a name for herself as a songwriter, penning hits such as The Loco-Motion and the huge Aretha Franklin hit, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that Carole broke out as a performer in her own right, particularly with her album Tapestry, released in 1971, which today 60 years later is still a timeless classic.
There’s no denying that Patti Smith, The Godmother of Punk, redefined the role of the female rock star for future generations. The poet, songwriter and performer is true music royalty. Since the release of her 1975 album Horses, her work has gone on to inspire generations upon generations of musicians, from the likes of Morrisey to Madonna. Being one of the early pioneers of New York City's punk scene, Patti created music that was unapologetic and honest, completely inspiring and empowering a whole new wave of female performers for decades to come.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Suzi Quatro was the first female bassist to enter the otherwise male-dominated world of Rock and Roll.
It all started in 1971, when Suzi was discovered by British record producer Mickie Most, and moved across the pond to the UK to start her career. She received huge recognition for her singles Can the Can and 48 Crash, becoming a huge influence for female musicians, most notably Joan Jett. Her independence and strong willed-nature set the tone for her ground-breaking career, helping to break down barriers for other aspiring female musicians. Today, she has made 15 albums and sold over 50 million copies.
Madonna is the Queen of pushing boundaries and fighting her way around any obstacle that comes her way. When we think if Madonna we think of self-determination... and she has bucket loads of it. After leaving her home-state Michigan for New York City in 1978 with only $35 to her name, singing in different bands and trying to make her name know, to becoming one of the biggest female performers in the world. Love her or hate her, you can't deny the influence that she has had on the music industry and for female performers.
Coming up to the 10th anniversary of her passing, Amy Winehouse’s influence and legacy is still ever-present in today’s music scene. Throughout her short yet successful career, the controversial and deeply troubled star could do no wrong with her music, producing a flawless body of work with her distinctive vocals, heartbreaking vocals and vintage-style melody and rhythm.
Well, there you have it folks, some of our favourite female industry game-changers. Let us know which female musician you think has been influential within the music industry below.