Tina Turner

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We want to rock! With the ladies, that is. The rock genre is historically highly populated with male talent, so, in the past, it took an exceptionally gifted woman to make a name for herself as a female rocker. Today, women are powerhouses in rock ‘n roll. Who are considered the top queens of the stage? We’ve compiled a list of the consensus best female rock stars all-time, according to industry pros.

Putting on your favorite tunes can lift your mood and decrease your stress, and there’s research to back it up. Listening to music reduced stress during the pandemic. The study of 711 people found music also improved mood, adding to evidence that our favorite tunes are a great antidote for anxiety. And, of course, different types of songs will have different effects: Faster songs can make people feel more alert and concentrate better. Upbeat ones can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. Meanwhile, researchers say a slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day. But that’s not all music can do.

Brain-boosting music? Yes, new research out of Japan reports “groovy” music can even enhance brain functioning. That’s right, scientists from the University of Tsukuba report that “music with a groove” can significantly increase measures of executive function and associated brain activity. Who doesn’t want a mental edge? The study found that there is one catch, though: You have to be familiar with the tune. So put on that old groovy tune that you love so much and know that your neurons are also dancing!

Ready to explore the legendary names of rock and roll? StudyFinds put together a list of the top five female rock stars of all time, according to experts and fans. Of course, we want to hear from you, so comment below to tell us which rocker you think is number one!

The List: Best Female Rock Stars of All-Time, Per Experts

1. Stevie Nicks

Can you say legend? Stevie Nicks is just that, making a name for herself as a lead singer of Fleetwood Mac, a band who still receives millions of listens on Spotify each month. But she wasn’t done there as she’s been equally successful in her solo career.

Hello Music Theory writes: “Growing up in the ’50s, she got her start in music by singing duets with her grandfather. The future rock star traveled often while growing up and met her future bandmate Lindsey Buckingham during her senior year of high school in California. The two joined the band Fleetwood Mac, and their debut album in 1975 catapulted all the members into stardom.”

“Nicks is known for her powerful vocal performances and her unique songwriting style. She is also considered one of the most influential female rock artists of the 20th century. Her songs have been covered by many artists over the years, and she has won Grammy Awards,” writes Music Grotto.

But we can’t just brush over those accolades, because that wouldn’t do Nicks justice, so here’s Audio Captain to expand upon the numbers: “Nicks has earned eight Grammys and three American Music Awards as a solo artist. She’s also the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice (once for Fleetwood Mac and once for herself).

2. Janis Joplin

You’ve certainly heard the name, and most likely her music. To give you an idea of the woman behind the voice, some insight from Wikipedia: “[At] the University of Texas at Austin (UT), though she did not complete her college studies, the campus newspaper, The Daily Texan, ran a profile of her in the issue dated July 27, 1962, headlined ‘She Dares to Be Different.’ The article began, ‘She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song, it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.’”

Janis Joplin's "Pearl" Album from 1971
Janis Joplin’s “Pearl” Album from 1971 (janisjoplin.com)

The Top Tens writes that “Janis Joplin (1943-1970) was an American singer who rose to fame as the main singer of acid band Big Brother and the Holding Company. She was known for her eccentric hippie style and psychedelic rock music.”

“Janis Joplin had an inspiring and tragic career. She was blessed with that iconic raspy, yet soulful voice, though mental illness and addiction took her life at age 27,” writes Guitar Space. “Beyond the fact that Joplin is one of the best female singers in rock music, she’s one of the best rock and blues singers of all time.”

Berklee Online shares that “Janis sang in folk and blues bars on the West Coast, and later played all-night parties for the Hells Angels at Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. She had been influenced vocally by Bessie Smith, Odetta, and Big Mama Thornton, but she brought an unchained, hard-rock energy to the scene, swigging her patented Southern Comfort whiskey onstage.” Unfortunately, they go on to note that “she died alone in a LA hotel room in 1970 of a heroin overdose, after playing a final concert at Harvard Stadium, of all places. Her legacy was boosted by a hit cover of Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ which came out right after she died and went to No. 1.”

3. Tina Turner

You may not think rock when you hear her name, but let us remind you that she’s dubbed The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Turner made all but one list that we reviewed, and there’s no question she deserves a spot here on our list.

Music in Minnesota reminds that “rock is a genre that is typically dominated by men, but occasionally, an amazing woman will break onto the scene,” and that’s exactly what Turner did. They go on to say that “Tina Turner wasn’t called the Queen of Rock and Roll for nothing. Born in 1939, she paved the way for female rock singers around the globe.”

In St. Louis, Tina Turner “met Ike Turner when he was performing with his band. The two went on to find success with songs like ‘Proud Mary’ before they split in 1976. In the 1980s, Turner launched a major comeback and went on to release the multi-Platinum album Private Dancer,” writes Hello Music Theory. They also note that, “since then, she’s won 12 Grammy awards, become a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and become famous for helping smash down deeply held racial barriers in rock music.”

U Discover Music writes “throughout her career, Tina Turner has perfected the art of blending pop with soul-filled rock music. She crossed genre and racial lines at a time when no one else could, and, with her signature raspy vocals and unstoppable energy, she makes each song her own. Whether she’s crafting arena pop classics such as ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ or giving The Rolling Stones a run for their money at Altamont with her cover of Otis Redding’s ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,’ Turner remains an inimitable talent among the best female rock singers.”

4. Ann Wilson

Though Ann and her sister, Nancy, were both a part of Heart, the band with which they reached stardom, Ann’s name popped up more frequently on the pros’ lists. Ann Wilson is known for her incredible singing talents, and though the band split years back, their music is still enjoyed today.

Ann Wilson (left) in Heart's "Little Queen" 1977
Ann Wilson (left) in Heart’s “Little Queen” 1977 (annwilson.com)

“Ann has a vocal range of over three octaves. Her voice is edgy enough for rock music but is operatic enough to reach notes that no one else can. Even if you’re not a Heart fan, you can hear any Heart song and know that’s Ann Wilson singing. In short, she’s the perfect rock singer. I can’t find much information on her training; some sources say she was opera-trained while others say she was self-taught,” writes Guitar Space.

Berklee Online shares exactly how one of Heart’s biggest hits came about: “Heart was soon victimized by their macho-dominated label, Mushroom Records, which in 1977 sent a controversial ad (the Wilson sisters weren’t told about it) to trade publications implying they were lesbians. It showed them huddled together looking sexy, with the caption, ‘It was only our first time!’ Ann hit the roof and went back to her hotel after a concert to write a scathing reply in the aggressive song ‘Barracuda,’ which became a hit.”

And from The Top Tens: “On record she’s great, but in a live performance no one comes close to Ann Wilson. I say that because most vocalists don’t sound as good live (especially in challenging passages) as they do on record. Most recorded tracks are ‘sweetened’ up to correct pitch issues and to digitally construct a song from start to finish. However, with Ms. Wilson her voice is even better live than it is on record because she lets loose far more often than on a controlled recording.”

5. Joan Jett

Joan Jett seemingly does it all. From her work with the Runaways, to leading her own group, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, to record producing, to acting, she’s certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Joan Jett
Joan Jett (joanjett.com)

Music Grotto writes that “Joan Jett is an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. She is best known for her work with the rock band The Blackhearts, as well as her solo career. Her hits include ‘I Love Rock ‘N Roll’ and ‘Crimson and Clover.’” Looks like we forgot to add guitarist to our lengthy list of abilities above.

“Her charisma, unique mezzo-soprano voice, and glam rock fetish earned her a spot as the lead singer of her first band, The Runaways, and eventually the international sensation Joan Jett & The Blackhearts,” writes Audio Captain. They go on to note that “the band released several chart-topping hits,” beyond those listed above.

U Discover Music shares: “A staunch feminist, Jett made her mark in music with songs such as the guitar-punk ‘Bad Reputation’ and The Blackhearts’ rendition of The Arrows’ song ‘I Love Rock’n’Roll.’ In 2015, she received a long-overdue accolade: an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame for her work with The Blackhearts.”

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75 Comments

  1. MikeinAZ says:

    Janis Joplin a top 5 female singer. Are these people serious? The rest of the list is good, but including raspy voiced Janice with the other 4 is laughable.

    1. Dennis M Boyce says:

      Maybe you need to listen to her a little bit more

      1. MikeinAZ says:

        No thanks, I’ve already heard enough of Janis Joplin to know that there is no way that she’s one of the top 5 female singers, much less the 2nd best.

  2. Ann S says:

    I would have Pat Benatar and Linda Ronstadt in place of Joan Jett and Tina Turner. Janis Joplin is also overrated—a lot of screaming, very little singing.

    1. Stacy says:

      Agreed

    2. James Trammell says:

      Thanks for that. Pat Benatar is #1

      1. AR says:

        Yes Pat Benatar!!!

    3. E.Serrano says:

      Right , I totally agree with you !

  3. Wendell Specker says:

    No to Ann Wilson & Janice Joplin. But ultimately it’s a vote from the public. Not you you and me.

  4. Dennis M Boyce says:

    What about Grace Slick?

  5. MPIE says:

    No Chrissie Hynde Pretenders

    1. TheWreck says:

      As it was Cherie Currie who sang lead for The Runaways, you have to question the “scholarship” in this article.

  6. Viduch says:

    Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde should be in there…

  7. Kevin J Baldwin says:

    U 4got Joan Armatrading

    1. Edmund says:

      Joan is too diverse to be considered rock and roll, infact she doesn’t fit neatly in any genre

  8. Joan says:

    Gracie Slick…for sure should be on this list

  9. Don says:

    You got Ann Wilson right. Number one is Mama Cass. Then Linda Ronstadt. Add Dusty Springfield and Judith Durham to complete the best voices in Rock and roll. Honorable mention to Pat Benatar and Rindy Ross.

  10. Kevin says:

    I agree with loriann

  11. SD says:

    You’ve got to be kidding right? Tina Turner has cemented her place in music but NOT in rock, whoever gave her the title of Queen of rock & roll must have been on crack because she certainly does not sing rock, she sings pop music, there is a difference!!!! Pat Benetar IS the Queen of Rock! With her voice & range Tina is certainly out matched. Pat Benetar belongs high on that list!!

    1. Edmund says:

      If you focus on Tina’s studio material, you’d be forgiven in thinking she’s not rock but check her out live and you’ll understand why she’s considered rock and roll

  12. Robert Appleman says:

    Grace Slick, the hippie queen, the OG, precedes all of the others. Thus, a bad list.

  13. Michael says:

    Very strong top 3 to be sure and I can see Ann Wilson at #5 but how the hell is Grace Slick not on this list? Not only does she have the greatest voice in rock and roll she wrote two of the greatest rock anthems ever, namely White Rabbit and Somebody to Love

  14. Robert Bykowski says:

    Based on influence alone, Janis Joplin should be number one. Based on overall talent combining both singing and songwriting, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders should be number two. Joan Jett definitely does NOT belong in the top five. Stevie Nicks and Tina Turner are obvious choices. One could also make an argument for Joni Mitchell, although her music is not really rock ‘n roll. And ladies such as Linda Ronstadt and Grace Slick have certainly contributed more to rock’s history than the female Robert Plant-wannabe Ann Wilson.

  15. Glenn says:

    Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Carol King