A History of Women in Rock Music – A Response To The Exclusion of Those Who Helped Shape the Genre

To please customers or to fight against everyday sexism? It’s shocking that we even consider this question. However, unfortunately, recent events have reinforced that inequality within the music industry is an ongoing issue.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Middlesbrough pub – Doctor Browns – who recently introduced a policy that does not allow female-fronted bands to perform in their premises. This was after customers complained that some rock songs, which are supposedly “male”, should not be performed by female singers. Manager Paula Rees even stated in defence, “we’re a rock bar and they don’t think women should sing male rock songs”. It is worth asking – who are ‘they’ and why are ‘they’ saying this?

‘They’ are customers with an opinion, of course. However, I cannot fathom the idea of excluding women from the rock genre. Just thinking about the numerous iconic women who have fronted and influenced the rock scene throughout history creates a plethora of names that jump into thought:

Janis Joplin. “One of the first female artists to break the “girl singer” mould… her fusion of rock and blues influenced both male and female artists”. With four studio albums, two live albums, a set at Woodstock in 1969 and influencing Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde to name a few – this woman was powerful, strong and could definitely front a female rock band.

Stevie Nicks, an absolute inspiration. She joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 and her singer-songwriter talent flourished. Her solo career in 1981 commenced whilst still working with Fleetwood Mac; not to mention a hefty 16 studio albums and three live albums under her belt. Even most recently, she joined Harry Styles on his tour for a “Landslide” duet. Like the music style or not, there is no denying that Nicks is an icon.

There shouldn’t have to be explanations for the likes of Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Pat Benater, Blondie, Patti Smith… the list goes on. There are also tons and tons of female-fronted rock bands, both upcoming and current who are paving the way in the rock industry. We have another blog post coming up which highlights important women in the current rock scene so be sure to check it out.

I just wanted to highlight the fact that the history of rock has influenced and created wonderful, inspirational women who have provided and continue to provide the music industry with talent, content and entertainment. There is no excuse for isolating female musicians from any venue. It is shocking, unequal and something must be done.

The negative response that came with this initial policy, however, does give hope. People realise that this is sexist and unjust. Let’s do something about it.

Written by Megan Ryder-Maki (@ixxmcmxl on Twitter).