The Female Rock Stars of the 1970s

Lyndsey Buckingham

As music entered the 1970s, all different types of rock acts were emerging, but the vast majority appeared to be fronted by male lead singers. It wasn’t long, however, before female lead singers were guiding their bands, and by the end of the decade there were even bands that were composed entirely of female performers.

The 1960s had been a period when many female singers had emerged but most of them were singing Motown records. With voices suited for soul music, it was a different skill that was needed to sing at the front of a rock band. The end of the 1960s saw the emergence of a number of protest singers that were tied in with the festivals and the hippy culture of the period. Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin were all popular, selling many albums, but they were never fronting a band that played loud rock music.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin came closest to doing that when she appeared in the Holding Company, but, sadly, she died of overdose in 1970 before her career could really develop. The first act that really caught the public’s attention was Suzi Quatro whose sister Patty played in the all-girl group Fanny.

Suzi Quatro ended up being the lead singer of her own band. Her performances were even more impressive as a result of her playing the bass guitar as well as singing. This was a huge step for ladies in rock, and one of the performers that she inspired was Chrissie Hine. Hine had desperately been trying for years to find a band who wanted a female lead singer and eventually she was included in the post punk band The Pretenders. Their first album in 1979 “The Pretenders” proved to be such a success that the band sold many records in the 1980s as one of the nation’s most popular rock groups.

The punk and the new wave era boasted many bands that had female singers. Siouxsie Sioux started her musical career from being an avid fan of the Sex Pistols. However, when she formed Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1979, a number of hits followed. She was remembered for her aloofness on stage while still being able to capture the audience’s attention.

Debbie Harry

Another band who were exceling during this period was Blondie. The band was fronted by lead singer Debbie Harry who hailed from New York but was as successful in Europe as she was in the States. Her two tone blonde hair made her a punk and new wave icon, with the band selling many records.

Fleetwood Mac are a great example of a band achieving moderate success until they employed a female lead singer. This occurred in 1975 when they hired Stevie Nicks to join the group with her boyfriend Lyndsey Buckingham. Within a year, the group that was formed in 1967 had released the album “Rumors” which grew into the 5th highest ever selling studio album. The group were a huge attraction from this point with Nicks’ familiar deep tones providing to be a vital ingredient in the band’s success.

Yet another female performer who had a band named after her was New York song writer Pattie Smith. Starting out as punk group, the band evolved into producing post punk type music. Her distinctive voice is best heard in the band’s biggest hit “Because the Night”.

During the 1970s there were many successful female singers who were solo artists, or performing in soul groups, but the ones that lead rock bands were few and far between. Considering the success that the females rock singers enjoyed, it was a great surprise that other bands did not follow this path.