10 Female Artists Who Are More Badass Than You’ll Ever Be
Who comes to mind when you think of badass female musicians? Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry are certainly on that list. So are Janis Joplin and Joan Jett. But we looked outside the obvious choices for our list of 10 Female Artists Who Are More Badass Than You’ll Ever Be. These are ladies who’ve caused a ruckus in their respective genres but are often overlooked for one reason or another. You may not automatically think “badass” when you hear their names, but trust us, these artists are true mavericks and influences in their fields.
Known for songs like ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘Strange Fruit,’ a song originally performed by Billie Holiday, Nina Simone proved she not only had the voice to entrance a crowd but also the musical training to back it up. At first she wanted to be the first renowned African-American female pianist, but things changed when she started performing in Atlantic City during the summer to pay for her studies at Julliard. The owner of the bar she performed at wanted her to sing too, something she hardly did before. Despite her nerves, Simone used her amazing vocals to ride a career as one of the prime soul and jazz singers of the 20th century. Later known as the High Priestess of Soul, Simone began performing songs in response to various cultural and political events, including the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the battle for civil rights.
June Carter Cash
Some say that June Carter Cash became famous thanks to her husband Johnny. But she earned her success on her own, with solo cuts like ‘The Heel’ and ‘Jukebox Blues.’ She won a Grammy, acted alongside Robert Duvall and appeared in various TV shows. And if that isn’t enough, she also published two books: a 1979 autobiography and a memoir more than two decades later. Plus, she co-wrote her husband’s classic ‘Ring of Fire,’ which is totally badass.
Dusty Springfield not only brought sweet mod style from the U.K., she also carried with her a fantastic pop and soul voice. With a career that spanned more than 30 years, Springfield topped the charts with songs like 1966’s ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ and the 1987 collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys, ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’ But her greatest achievement is the 1969 ‘Dusty in Memphis’ album, in which this British pop vocalist showed American soul singers how it’s done. It remains one of the greatest records ever made.
Way before a teenage Taylor Swift was writing songs about her love life, 18-year-old Carole King was topping the charts as an in-demand songwriter behind hits like ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow.’ At first with husband Gerry Goffin, and then on her own, King became one of pop’s most famous songwriters. In 1971, she released ‘Tapestry,’ one of the biggest-selling albums of all-time … and one of the best. Besides the armful of Grammys she’s scooped up over the years, King has been inducted into the Songwriters and the Rock and Roll hall of fames. She also became the first female to be honored with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2013.
Yoko Ono may have caught a chunk of the blame for the Beatles breaking up, but don’t believe it. She’s pushed through tons of negativity and continued to work on her art and music over the years. Admittedly, she’s an acquired taste, but she was making feminist statements long before anyone else in pop culture spoke up. Through it all she married a Beatle, raised a musical son and influenced artists like the B-52’s — there’s not too much more in the world that’s more badass than that.
During a time when blues was still dominated by men, Bonnie Raitt plugged in and showed everyone she could riff just as hard as any other guitar hero. With nearly 20 albums and 10 Grammys to her name, Raitt has forged a slow but steady career since the early ’70s. In 1989, she finally topped the charts and became a household name with the excellent ‘Nick of Time’ album. She remains one of the planet’s best blues guitarists and singers.
Her loud personality and even louder hair guaranteed that people would notice Cyndi Lauper. But it’s her music — starting with the irresistibly bubbly ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ — that made her a star. Songs like ‘True Colors’ and ‘Time After Time’ proved that she could handle the serious stuff with skill too. And how about this? She’s won a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony — as well as various other industry awards — over the years. She’s still crazy busy, recently writing the music and lyrics for the Tony Award-winning Broadway show ‘Kinky Boots.’ Plus, she’s an active advocate for gay and transgender rights. See? Totally badass.
With more than 50 albums and 16 chart-topping country singles, the legendary Loretta Lynn is not only a groundbreaking artist, she’s an American icon. Songs like ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ ‘Rated “X”‘ and ‘The Pill’ are autobiographical, revolutionary and way more badass than anything any of today’s country superstars have recorded. How cool is she? Jack White produced, wrote and played on her 2004 comeback album ‘Van Lear Rose.’ Over the years she’s been honored by everyone from the Kennedy Center to the Presidential Honor of Freedom.
The Go-Go’s were huge pop stars in the early ’80s, gracing everything from MTV to the cover of Rolling Stone. ‘We Got the Beat’ and ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ are still go-to favorites for jukebox pluggers and weekend-karaoke fans. They were the first all-female band to write and play on a No. 1 album, 1981’s ‘Beauty and the Beat,’ and even though there have been breakups, reunions and lineup changes since then, the group still tours from time to time.
During the first five years of hip-hop’s history, it was a man’s world. Women eventually muscled their way into the scene, and none hit as hard as Salt-n-Pepa. Their classic songs from the era, like ‘Push It’ and ‘Shoop,’ were sexual, empowering and badass to the point that they’re still quoted and covered today. Later hits like ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ and ‘Whatta Man’ (a collaboration with the equally badass En Vogue) became anthems that worked as well on the dance floor as they did in the bedroom.