10 Best Rock n Roll Women of the 70s & 80s

Women of music: a list from the time when music became central to my life. As usual a personal and eclectic list – some are incontestable, some entirely up to me. Who do remember, who would you include? (Listed alphabetically, that’s all.)

Annie Lennox – unique, amazing, spectacular – gave androgyny a whole new meaning. How could she be so feminine in such boys wear? Brilliant voice, strong and ballsy but could reduce you to tears too. The epitome of anthemic girls music.

Aretha Franklin – okay so she’s really timeless in a sense but how can any list of great women singers leave her out? Check out her duo with Annie – Sisters are doing it for Themselves and always Respect. Never mind her size, it’s the voice that matters.


Blondie – didn’t you want to look like her? So cool, so hip, so obviously not a blonde but with absolute blonde attitude. My uni days (and many nights) vibrated to her music. Heart of Glass, Call Me, The Tide is High, Maria and Rapture – all classics.


Bette Midler – The Divine Miss M. I channelled Bette through the early 80s, we were as one, shame about my voice but I did have the attitude. Remember her in The Rose, being Janis? And of course there was Beaches and Wind Beneath my Wings but her other stuff was better – Stay with Me, Do You Want to Dance and Beast of Burden. Check out her Mermaid antics on her live shows – bawdy and brilliant.


Carly SimonNo Secrets was the first proper record I ever had. My mum bought it as birthday present and playing it beforehand pretending Carly was Jeanette McDonald – I almost believed it! For a time there I had every single album and knew her songs off by heart. For a time there she and James Taylor were the highest earning celebrity couple in the world. You’re So Vain is simply timeless, and we all know someone who fits the song!


Chrissie Hynde – all attitude and hair, the shirts and the leather pants. She was like Blondie, but scary. The Pretenders were the archetypal rock n roll band – excess and death and songs to break your heart. Brass in Pocket, Talk of the Town and not so long ago the tear jerker, I’ll Stand by You. Chrissie sang from the heart, beneath that dark, mysterious fringe.


Grace Jones – I loved Grace. She was black silk and leather, amazing clothes and stunning performer. Remember the clip for Slave to the Rhythm? Graceful she was – sleek like a panther and as fierce. It was all about moving, her body, our bodies, a different rhythm for many of us. Black’s always been beautiful but never mores that with Grace. One of my girls was named for her.


Kate Bush – were you immune to Wuthering Heights? Could you believe what you saw on Countdown – the red dressed, wild haired girl prancing across the moors just like Cathy must have? But she had so many brilliant songs in her – Cloudbusting, Breathing and Babooshka. The clips were impressive too. God, such a talent!


Madonna – well you just can’t avoid this woman if you’re talking 70s-80s songbirds. She was the biggest eagle in the sky in the 80s and I did love Like a Virgin (the clip was stunning, well Venice & lions, how can you miss?) and Material Girl. She is the mistress of reinvention and you can’t fault her power and influence, even if she hasn’t done anything of much worth of late. I do wish she’d grown into her 50s with a bit more grace. (look at Blondie and Grace Jones in their 60s – amazing to behold)


Stevie Nicks – Fleetwood Mac were the band of the late 70s, so she was the singer. Can’t imagine life without Dreams, Rhiannon or Tusk (I know, instrumental). She was always the quintessential ephemeral floating fairy queen in those beautifully feminine dresses. Listen to Sara, you will cry. This was the woman who knew heart-ache and helped many of us cry our way through broken relationships.

Which women did you love? Who made an indelible mark on your life  – then and now? Music makes us who we are and these women shaped me, my taste in music and their songs marked many memorable stages of my life. I can’t hear Heart of Glass without thinking of one particular man! (images from google)


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