There is an overlooked faction in the world of rock. Well, not so much overlooked, because they’re looked at, believe me, they are looked at. Anyways, I am speaking about the women in rock; ah yes, mans’ other best friend. Usually when someone speaks about women in rock, we tend to think of the obvious standouts such as Joan Jett or even that hot chick from the Bangles, but if you pause for a moment and think about rock history, or even your favorite songs, you’ll soon realize that they were there all along! Although they are not as demonstrative in the rock genre as they are in Pop and R&B, they can still rock your socks off (or pants… but we won’t get into that). Rather than just featuring the obvious choices of famous front women and already well known axe-ladies, we have compiled a few of the lesser known gals of rock. Read on and check out what your ears (and eyes) might have missed!
Grace Potter of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Now here’s a girl who knows how to rock. Folk rock band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ front-woman and multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter might be relatively unknown in the bigger scheme of things, but she has plenty of devoted fans and has garnered a nice amount of attention from several big names. Even if her name doesn’t sound familiar to you, chances are you’ve already heard her in action as her songs have been featured on numerous television shows and movies, such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland where her band covered the perfectly trippy “White Rabbit” of Jefferson Airplane for the film score. She was also featured as the voice of Carol in the Disney Christmas special Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice. She got her start as a solo folk singer while at college in her native Vermont. Soon after future bandmate and drummer Matt Burr approached Potter with the idea of starting a band after he had seen her perform at a local coffee house. Burr himself was drawn to Potter’s voice which he likened to James Brown and The Band as influences. They recruited guitarist Scott Tournet a year later and cemented the basis for what would become Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
A well known fixture in her native France, Hardy was just as well known on both sides of the pond during her heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s, at least by the male rock stars. Mick Jagger called her his ideal woman. Bob Dylan mentions her in his poem “Some other kinds of songs” (which he wrote for the cover of his album Another Side of Bob Dylan) as well as refusing to take the stage during a show until she visited his dressing room. Still not convinced of her appeal? Take it from David Bowie who said of Hardy, “I was for a long time very passionately in love with Françoise. Every male in the world and a number of females were also.” She got her start after he father bought her a guitar for passing her baccalaureate (equivalent to a high school diploma). Soon after at the young age of 17, she responded to an add looking for young singers and was immediately signed by record label Vogue in November 1961. Her first hit came quickly as an unexpected B-side success to the single “Oh Oh Chéri” in the form of her song "Tous les garçons et les filles," selling over a million copies and a No. 34 spot on the UK singles chart. She continued her success while venturing into acting and modeling which in time proved to be ultimately more successful for the beautiful guitarist.
Designer Paul Smith probably said it best: “In France they had Françoise Hardy, and in England we had Marianne Faithfull. You knew her because she recorded music, but also because she went out with Jagger. And then there were all the articles published about their sex life – whether they were true or not, who knew?” Faithfull began her career in the early ‘60s as a folk singer in London area coffee houses where she soon got plenty of attention from the surrounding social scene. She was invited to a Rolling Stones album release party where she was discovered by their producer and manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. Soon after the two began releasing a string of well received singles such as “Come and Stay With Me,” “This Little Bird” and “Summer Nights.” Soon after giving birth to her son in 1965, she left her then husband John Dunbar in order to live with Mick Jagger. She told popular periodical NME: “My first move was to get a Rolling Stone as a boyfriend. I slept with three and decided the lead singer was the best bet.” She would go on to inspire as many songs as she wrote, with Stone’s classics such as “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Wild Horses” and “I Got the Blues” all allegedly influenced by Faithfull. The Stones weren’t the only ones affected as Graham Nash once stated that his song “Carrie Anne” by The Hollies is about Faithfull as well. Not to be outdone, even the Beatles entered the mix with the Lennon penned “And Your Bird Can Sing” being admittedly about Faithfull.
Our next lady on the list might be better known by her stage name Cat Power, or better yet as one of the models for Chanel. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Marshall first became exposed to music at a young age from her father, a blues guitarist and pianist, but soon after went to a bit of a drought when her parents divorced . Although her mother, which whom Marshall had decided to live with, did not let her buy her own records, she was able to listen to her stepfather’s record collection which included albums from such artist as Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones and Ottis Redding, highly influencing her later approach to music. By the age of 16, she was no longer in contact with her mother and dropped out of high school, instead choosing to live with her father, who although was a musician did not give her any lessons and even forbade her to touch his piano. She would soon leave to live on her own and became highly exposed to the underground Atlanta music scene, learning to play guitar and piano in the meantime. She and a few of her fellow Atlanta jamming buddies were offered a spot at a local club and needed a name quick, which they got in the form of the logo of a hat Marshall was wearing which read “Cat Diesel Power.” The band disliked the diesel aspect but all agreed on Cat Power. Although she played a number of shows with the group under the name Cat Power, Marshall admits that her early years in music was due more to social reasons than any artistic one. By 1994 all that had changed as she received the opportunity to record after meeting Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley who encouraged her musical abilities and would play drums on her first two albums, Dear Sir and Myra Lee. Soon after, she began making a name for herself after opening for artists such as Liz Phair, all while keeping the name Cat Power. By the mid ‘90s, she had become a popular indie artist in her own right and although she took a brief hiatus in order to act and model, she has since come back to the music scene and enjoys a strong following.
Alison Mosshart of The Kills and The Dead Weather
If you don’t know her by now, it might be because her fellow bandmate Jack White usually garners most of the attention, but this girl is as rock as Joan Jett ever was. A native of Florida, she first made a name for herself in 1995 as the singer of the punk rock group Discount until it disbanded in 2000. Soon after, she and English guitarist Jaime Hince co-founded The Kills. Before the two had even met, they overheard each others’ music while they were sharing the same hotel during Discount’s European tour and eventually began the partnership. By 2002, Mosshart moved to London where the duo began what would be a fruitful career. They would go on to release four albums under The Kills with several of their singles being used in television shows and movies such as House M.D., 90210, The House Bunny, and The Losers. In 2008, she became a founding member of the blues rock band The Dead Weather along with notable musician Jack White. She took on the rhythm guitar and co-singing duties in the band. She had previously collaborated with White while he performed with his other project, The Raconteurs. On the group’s first album, Horehound, Mosshart wrote the song “So Far From Your Weapon” and co-wrote eight of the ten original tracks.