48 Influential Female Musicians and How They’ve Shaped the Music Industry


Table of Contents

Featured image: Creative Commons License by Ben Alman

Today, 8th March, marks International Women’s Day – a day where we celebrate and honour the trailblazing women who have come before us, those who are making waves now, and our close friends around us. It’s an annual reminder of the strides we have made in the women’s rights movement as well as the strides that we need to make, whether that be social, economic, cultural, or political.

The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the US in 1909. Then in 1910 at the International Conference of Working Women, Clara Zetkin – leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany – proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day, which was met by a unanimous agreement from 100 women from 17 different countries.

The day has gained traction over the years, with more and more countries observing and celebrating the triumphs of women. Particularly in music, there have been many women of all cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life who have paved the way for future musicians.

In this heavily male-dominated industry, some of the most influential female musicians have had to overcome injustice, sexism, and abuse to gain the same status and respect as their male counterparts. And when we celebrate women in the music industry, both past and present, it becomes clear that their voices not only represent the struggles and achievements within the industry but also reflect wider society and their contributions to the women’s rights efforts as a whole.

From Nina Simone’s heart-aching lyrics that speak of her pain and suffering and her fight for civil rights to the pioneering performances and zine writings of riot grrrl trailblazer Kathleen Hanna, there are so many conquests and attainments to be recognised in the music industry.

As someone who has always been intrigued by how women are perceived and treated in the music industry – and who has studied this in depth – this article about influential female musicians is both a joy and eye-opening to write. In fact, there are so many women to talk about that I could go on forever, so I’ve kept it to 48 to keep your sanity intact by the end of the blog post!

The 5 most influential female musicians

All the women on this list have been hugely influential in their fields, however, these five women stand out for having made the biggest impacts, whether that be in music production, traversing genres, or using their voices to speak about social, racial, and gender injustice.

ArtistSong recommendation
Kate Bush"Cloudbusting"
Nina Simone“Mississippi Goddam”
Madonna“Ray of Light”
Aretha Franklin“Think”

The most influential female musicians

1. Kate Bush (1958 – )

Thank goodness for Stranger Things, or else many non-music lovers or younger generations may never have heard of the mystical wonder that is Kate Bush. However, they will have heard, albeit perhaps not consciously, her influence.

Her first album, The Kick Inside, was released when she was just 19, and even then, she showed steadfast vision and confidence in her work. The label wanted her to release “James and the Cold Gun” as her first single, but Bush refused, fighting for “Wuthering Heights” to come out – and it’s a good job she did as it stayed at number one for four weeks in 1978.

Her work not only as singer singer-songwriter but also as a producer – and a dancer – has shaped the music of many producers today.

Song recommendation: “Cloudbusting”

2. Nina Simone (1933 – 2003)

Nina Simone may have been classically trained as a jazz singer and pianist, but she made her mark on more than just music. She was a prominent outspoken campaigner for the end of racial violence and discrimination, using her voice to express her pain, suffering, and fight for civil rights.

Her song “Mississippi Goddam”, released in 1964, is a legendary, desperate protest that came after the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. It showcases her raw anger and frustration at the lack of change; you can see this in her famous performance of the song three days after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two years later, she released “Four Women”, a song that speaks of the strength and resilience of African American women. It’s these songs and Simone’s unwavering will to struggle and fight for the Civil Rights Movement, Black Nationalism, and the Black Power Movement that have solidified her as an undoubtedly inspirational and influential female musician.

Song recommendation: “Mississippi Goddam”

3. Björk (1965 – )

Icelandic singer and producer Björk has surpassed all genre boundaries and become one of the most experimental music artists of all time. Her career began when she was just 11 years old and by the age of 21, she was the lead singer and keyboardist of alt. rock band The Sugarcubes.

When deciding to go solo, she moved to London, where she delved into techno and dance, among other genres, and became truly weird and eccentric in the way she combined visuals and sound to create albums that are monumental pieces of art.

Her avant-garde music has inspired and impacted many other musicians – both male and female – and she was also dubbed one of the most influential people in the world by Time in 2015. Now, she is known for her eclectic style and talent as a singer, songwriter, and producer, with an influential career that has spanned four decades.

Song recommendation: “Hyperballad”

4. Madonna (1958 – )

In the ‘80s, Madonna’s influence was rife. And her albums have stood the test of time, resonating with generations then and generations now.

She encourages women to express themselves, be open about their sexuality, with her electrifying music going from rock to country to pop and each album being a masterpiece – whether it be 1989’s Like a Prayer, 1998’s Ray of Light, or 2000’s Music.

Song recommendation: “Ray of Light”

5. Aretha Franklin (1942 – 2018)

Known as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin bridged the gap between religious and secular music. Starting as a gospel singer with her father, who was a pastor, Franklin’s voice captured audiences from the age of 12.

She then expanded into other genres before setting in gospel blues, writing and covering songs, such as Otis Redding’s “Respect”, that shone a light on personal and racial issues. She was a prominent campaigner for civil rights, women’s rights, and Native American rights, and her music doesn’t just resonate with music artists who have come after her but has also been used as anthems for these movements.

Song recommendation: “Think”

6. Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011)

Amy Winehouse was known for her deep, expressive contralto soul, jazz vocals. She was a powerhouse, producing music that resonated with millions and still resonates with millions now.

Her second album, Back to Black, catapulted her to international fame, featuring tracks like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good”. She could blend classic soul music with contemporary elements, and her fearless authenticity that was beyond her years made her a pivotal figure in modern music.

What set Winehouse apart wasn’t just her voice but her candid songwriting, which delved into personal struggles and relationships. Her raw honesty was present on every track and stage performance, and when she tragically passed in 2011, she was mourned worldwide.

Song recommendation: “Back To Black”

7. Shania Twain (1965 – )

Country music legend Shania Twain emerged as a sensation in the 1990s, but her journey came from humble beginnings. Despite many of her songs being upbeat, catchy tracks, Twain overcame many hardships to gain the status of one of the most influential country musicians.

Her album Come On Over catapulted her to stardom, with it containing hit after hit, including “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much”.

Twain’s influence extends beyond her catchy tunes; she redefined country music’s boundaries, blending rock and pop elements – an innovation that opened doors for future generations of artists, bridging the gap between genres. She’s also known for her vibrant stage presence and ability to connect with fans throughout her career.

Song recommendation: “That Don’t Impress Me Much”

8. Dame Shirley Bassey (1937 – )

Welsh singer Shirley Bassey has been a powerful force in the music industry since the ’50s. As well as her iconic renditions of James Bond theme songs, including “Goldfinger”, “Diamonds Are Forever”, and “Moonraker”, Bassey’s chart-topping hits paved the way for female artists in a male-dominated industry.

With her glamorous persona and a big band behind her, her dramatic performances and flair solidify her as one of the most legendary entertainers and singers. Not only that but she was also awarded a CBE in 1993 and a DBE in 2000.

Song recommendation: “Goldfinger”

9. Carole King (1942 – )

An acoustic guitar and a skill for writing intimate, poetic lyrics with relatable honesty are what launched Carole King into the spotlight when she released her 1971 album Tapestry, which has become a legendary and highly influential acoustic/singer-songwriter album that’s also been inducted in the Grammy Hall Of Fame.

Before this, however, her songwriting talents were already utilised on tracks such as “The Loco-Motion” and “Up On the Roof”. But when she spoke to listeners through songs like “I Feel the Earth Move” and “You’ve Got a Friend”, she firmly planted herself in the ‘70s singer-songwriter scene, and songwriters have looked to her for inspiration ever since.

Song recommendation: “You’ve Got a Friend”

10. Joni Mitchell (1943 – )

Another exceptionally influential singer-songwriter of the ‘70s, Joni Mitchell combines elements of pop, rock, folk, and jazz into her music, but at the heart of it are intimate lyrics and, sometimes, an improvisational feel.

Her album Blue, released in 1971, is a work of art that has stood as the pinnacle of talented songwriting, containing legendary tracks such as “A Case of You” and “River”. She’s also a skilled artist and used her paintings and self-portraits for her album covers.

Song recommendation: “A Case of You”

11. Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012)

Often hailed as one of the greatest vocalists of all time, Whitney Houston followed in the footsteps of her godmother, who was none other than Aretha Franklin. Born in 1963 in Newark, New Jersey, Houston’s career took off in the ’80s with hits like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “How Will I Know”, showcasing her incredible vocal range.

Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You” became her signature song, highlighting her as a once-in-a-generation talent. Her influence extended beyond her chart-topping hits; she broke numerous records, becoming one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

A key moment in her career was her performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl, which is still celebrated for its emotional depth and vocal mastery. It’s known as the greatest Super Bowl performance ever. Houston’s legacy lives on through her contributions to music and film, inspiring countless artists with her talent and resilience.

Song recommendation: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”

 12. Sinéad O’Connor (1966 – 2023)

Sinéad O’Connor, an Irish singer-songwriter, rose to fame in the late 1980s with her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra. Her haunting vocals and shaved head made her an iconic figure in music. However, it was her cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” that became her signature song, receiving four Grammy nominations and the video winning MTV’s Video of the Year.

More than just a singer, O’Connor’s legacy lies mainly in her fearless, outspoken views. She denounced the catholic church, ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in 1992, and in later life turned to Islam.

She was a real advocate for change in social and political climates, and she spoke candidly about mental health issues – something that was ahead of its time in the ‘80s/’90s. It’s because of this strength, resilience, and brutal honesty that her death was mourned worldwide in 2023. What was seen as controversial when O’Connor was alive is what she is celebrated for in death, cementing her place as a trailblazer in the industry.

Song recommendation: “Nothing Compares 2 U”

13. Taylor Swift (1989 – )

Taylor Swift has been a dominant force in music since her country roots debut in 2006. Swift’s journey from teenage country sensation to global pop superstar is marked by her chart-topping albums and hit singles like “Love Story”, “Shake It Off”, and “Bad Blood”.

What makes Swift influential is not just her music but her storytelling, connection with fans, and savvy use of social media. She can evolve artistically, navigating changes in genre with ease and showcasing her raw talent in country, pop, and folk music – her transition to pop with the album 1989 was iconic.

She’s also known for her public disputes over artists’ rights and, more recently, her re-recording of her early albums as a stand against industry exploitation. Even whilst on her Eras world tour, she has released album after album, including new work and her album re-recordings. She made history at the 2024 Grammys, becoming the first artist to be awarded Album of the Year four times.

Song recommendation: “Love Story”

14. Beyoncé (1981 – )

When artists break away from their band and go solo, it can be risky – and a lot of the time, they don’t see the same success as they did as a group. However, Beyoncé transformed from the lead singer of Destiny’s Child to one of the most influential solo artists of the 21st century.

She’s crafted a career filled with groundbreaking albums, such as Dangerously in Love and Lemonade. Her visually stunning performances and innovative visual albums have redefined the music industry’s standards.

Beyoncé’s influence stretches beyond her music; she’s a cultural icon advocating for women’s empowerment and racial equality, for example, back in 2018, she became the first black woman to headline Coachella. She celebrates women, proudly displays the beauty of motherhood both in her lyrics and on stage with her daughter, and has inspired conversations worldwide about racial and social justice.

Song recommendation: “Single Ladies”

15. Stevie Nicks (1948 – )

Fleetwood Mac were not shy to let the world in on their turbulent marriages, divorces, heartbreaks, and affairs, namely on their iconic Rumours album. Stevie Nicks was one of the most outspoken.

In fact, her track “Silver Springs” was intended to be featured on the album (it was not, but later ended up on the 2004 remastered version), an emotional, powerful song that describes her rocky relationship and breakup with Lindsey Buckingham. Many believed this song was too insightful and could have led to the break up of the band if it had been included on the original album.

She has taken this raw, passionate storytelling through to her solo career. Her ethereal voice and mystical stage presence are unique, with her music blending rock, country, and pop.

She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once with Fleetwood Mac and once as a solo artist, a rare feat. Nicks broke barriers for women in rock, becoming a style icon and a symbol of female empowerment and resilience.

Song recommendation: “Edge of Seventeen”

16. Tina Turner (1939 – 2023)

Tina Turner, the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, rose from humble beginnings in Tennessee to a global superstar. Known for her electrifying performances and powerful vocals, Turner delivered timeless hits like “Proud Mary”, “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, and “The Best”, with her endless energy and iconic dance moves making her stage presence iconic.

Turner was not just known for her music but also her ability to rise up and up, re-establish her career in the ‘80s, and be an advocate for women whilst enduring behind-the-scenes abuse at the hands of her husband, Ike Turner. She was the embodiment of empowerment and perseverance.

Song recommendation: “What’s Love Got To Do With It”

17. Kathleen Hanna (1968 – )

Kathleen Hanna played a pivotal role in the ‘90s as co-founder of the riot grrrl movement and lead singer of Bikini Kill and later Le Tigre. Her songs “Rebel Girl” and “Deceptacon” became punk anthems of empowerment in the feminist movement of the underground music scene.

She fought hard for women, especially female musicians, to be taken seriously and for women to have the same rights and experience at music venues as men.

She wrote in zines (riot grrrl magazines), encouraged women to stand at the front of the crowd at her gigs, and turned on the house lights and paused the show whenever any man tried to move forward or move a woman out the way at one of Bikini Kill’s gigs. To this day, she maintains the punk aesthetic and attitude and campaigns for women’s rights.

Song recommendation: “Rebel Girl”

18. Erykah Badu (1971 – )

Dubbed the “Queen of Neo-Soul,” Erykah Badu uniquely blends soul, jazz, and hip-hop. Since her debut album Baduizm in 1997, featuring hits like “On & On” and “Next Lifetime,” Badu has been renowned for her ethereal vocals and spiritual lyrics.

Her influence extends beyond music; Badu is known for her distinctive style, activism, and social commentary, challenging conventional norms and advocating for various social issues. A key moment in her career was the release of “Window Seat”, which sparked widespread discussion about body positivity and freedom of expression.

Badu’s contributions have not only paved the way for future generations of artists in the neo-soul genre but have also cemented her status as a cultural icon who uses her platform to inspire change and empower women.

Song recommendation: “Next Lifetime”

19. Christine McVie (1943 – 2022)

Christine McVie’s impact on Fleetwood Mac was transformative, helping to steer the band through its many phases and contributing to its iconic sound. McVie’s influence extended beyond her keyboard and vocal contributions; she was a stabilising force in the band and played a crucial part in the addition of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

McVie’s accolades, including Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, barely scratch the surface. Beyond the awards, it was her unique voice, songwriting talent, and innovative approach to music that made her a true trailblazer. McVie’s legacy is not just in the songs she wrote or the awards she won but in the countless musicians she has inspired.

Song recommendation: “Songbird”

20. Dolly Parton (1946 – )

Country legend Dolly Parton is one of the most beloved and influential female musicians. Her journey from poverty to country music queen is inspiring, and her roots are something she sings about often, writing down-to-earth lyrics that make her so relatable and respected.

As well as releasing huge hits like “Jolene”, “9 to 5”, and “I Will Always Love You”, Parton is a philanthropist, actor, and businesswoman. She’s also known for being generous and humble, even at the height of her success, for example, her Imagination Library, which gifts books to children, showcases her commitment to literacy and giving back.

Song recommendation: “Jolene”

21. Dusty Springfield (1939 – 1999)

Dusty Springfield was an innovator in the ‘60s. She blended British pop with soul and, despite being an iconic figure in her own right, she constantly compared herself to other greats of the time.

With her distinctive mezzo-soprano voice, she delivered hits like “Son of a Preacher Man”, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”, and “The Look of Love”. But she was also fearless in fighting for change and in 1964 was deported from South Africa for defying apartheid and playing to an audience of black and white men and women.

Song recommendation: “Son of a Preacher Man

22. Tracy Chapman (1964 – )

Tracy Chapman emerged in the late 1980s with her eponymous debut album that included the hit “Fast Car”. Her folk and blues-infused music, combined with socially conscious lyrics, resonated deeply with audiences worldwide.

She has an ability to weave stories of social issues, love, and inequality into her songs, take “Give Me One Reason” and “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution”, for example,  making her one of the most influential singer-songwriters of her time.

Her performance at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute concert helped elevate her to international fame, and her multiple Grammy wins cemented her status in the music industry.

Song recommendation: “Fast Car”

23. Lady Gaga (1986 – )

With some seriously powerful vocal chords and a multitude of talents that include songwriting, piano playing, and acting, Lady Gaga has had a profound impact on pop culture and music.

She skyrocketed to success with her debut album The Fame in 2008, which included hits like “Just Dance” and “Poker Face”. Known for her theatrical performances and fashion, Lady Gaga constantly reinvents herself and her music, exploring genres from pop and dance to jazz and country.

Her influence is seen in her advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights, mental health awareness, and her foundation, Born This Way, which focuses on empowering younger generations. She was also Oscar-nominated for her role in A Star Is Born and her song “Shallow”, demonstrating her versatility and talent beyond music.

Song recommendation: “Poker Face”

24. Jill Scott (1972 – )

Jill Scott is a hugely influential figure in neo-soul. Her debut in 2000 with the album Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 introduced a unique blend of jazz, R&B, spoken word, and soul. Songs like “A Long Walk”, “Gettin’ in the Way”, and “He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat)” showcase her candid exploration of love, self-respect, and empowerment, which resonates with women around the world.

Song recommendation: “A Long Walk”

25. Alicia Keys (1981 – )

The world was introduced to Alicia Keys when she released her debut album Songs in A Minor in 2001. The album, featuring the hit “Fallin’,” showcased her classical piano skills blended with soul, R&B, and hip-hop influences. Keys is known for powerful ballads and anthems like “If I Ain’t Got You”, “No One”, and “Girl on Fire”, which have earned her numerous awards, including 15 Grammy Awards.

As well as captivating listeners with her music, Keys is a proud philanthropist and activist with her work on HIV/AIDS awareness and racial justice.

Song recommendation: “Fallin'”

26. Billie Eilish (2001 – )

Billie Eilish was catapulted to global fame as a teenager with her distinctively moody, electropop sound. Her debut single, “Ocean Eyes”, went viral in 2016, setting the stage for her critically acclaimed debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in 2019.

With introspective songwriting and a unique aesthetic, Eilish challenges traditional pop norms, addressing themes like mental health and environmental activism. She’s known for her DIY approach, collaborating closely with her brother Finneas O’Connell.

One of the most notable moments in her career include sweeping the four major categories at the 2020 Grammy Awards and her performance of the theme song for the James Bond film “No Time to Die”. Eilish’s success and activism have made her a voice of her generation, influencing both the music industry and social issues.

Song recommendation: “Bad Guy”

27. Tori Amos (1963 – )

As well as being a classically trained mezzo-soprano singer, Tori Amos bends genres, seamlessly weaving between alternative rock, classical, and electronica. Amos’ career is dotted with notable moments, including multiple Grammy nominations. Her emotionally charged lyrics and unique piano compositions have inspired a generation of artists. She’s not just a musician; she’s a muse for creativity and authenticity in music.

Song recommendation: “Cornflake Girl”

28. Chrissie Hynde (1951 – )

Chrissie Hynde, the frontwoman of The Pretenders, has firmly cemented her place in rock history with her distinct voice and defiant attitude. Her music, a potent mix of punk, rock, and new wave, has produced classics like “Brass in Pocket” and “Back on the Chain Gang”.

As well as leading one of the few female-fronted bands in the late ’70s and ’80s rock scene, achieving critical and commercial success, she’s also inspired future generations to carve out their space in the industry with authenticity whilst staying true to their artistic vision.

Song recommendation: “Brass in Pocket”

29. Alanis Morrissette (1974 – )

Alanis Morissette burst onto the scene in the 1990s, redefining the landscape of alternative rock with her raw emotion and introspective songwriting. Her landmark album, Jagged Little Pill, featuring hits like “You Oughta Know” and “Ironic”, became an anthem for a generation.

Morissette’s influence can be seen in countless artists who followed, as she opened the door for more honest and gritty narratives in music. Her career, decorated with multiple awards, highlights the significant impact she has had not just on her genre, but on the music industry as a whole.

Song recommendation: “You Oughta Know”

30. Ella Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996)

Ella Fitzgerald possessed a voice that transcended jazz, making her one of its most influential figures. Known for her purity of tone and impeccable diction, Fitzgerald brought classics like “Summertime” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” to life.

Throughout her career, Fitzgerald broke barriers, becoming the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award, with her tally eventually reaching 13. Her mastery of scat singing and ability to interpret a song uniquely inspired countless musicians across genres.

Song recommendation: “Summertime”

31. Patti Smith (1946 – )

Patti Smith melds rock, poetry, and punk in her music, creating a unique blend that has deeply influenced the genre. With her debut album, Horses, and songs like “Because the Night” and “Gloria”, Smith brought a new level of depth and artistry to punk rock, challenging conventions and expectations.

Her fearless approach to music and songwriting has made Smith a seminal figure in the punk movement and beyond. She has inspired countless artists across various genres and has a powerful legacy that she continues to build as a musician and poet.

Song recommendation: “Gloria”

32. Karen Carpenter (1950 – 1983)

With a soothing, contralto voice that could span three octaves, Karen Carpenter redefined the soft rock and pop genres alongside her brother in The Carpenters.

Her seamless transition between singing and playing the drums during performances broke new ground for female musicians. Many artists since her have credited her as inspiration for their work, including Elton John and Paul McCartney, with songs like “Close to You” and “Only Just Begun” becoming timeless hits.

Song recommendation: “We’ve Only Just Begun”

33. Adele (1988 – )

Adele’s voice, characterised by its depth and emotional richness, has made her a defining figure in contemporary music. Her albums, from 19 to 30, chronicle her thoughts on love and life, blending blues with modern pop in a way that has resonated worldwide. Hits like “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep” have become anthems of heartbreak and resilience, showcasing her songwriting genius.

Adele’s career is punctuated by record-breaking achievements, including multiple Grammy Awards that speak to her global impact. She has influenced a broad spectrum of artists by proving the power of authentic emotional expression in music.

Song recommendation: “Someone Like You”

34. Billie Holiday (1915 – 1959)

One of the most monumental figures in jazz and blues, Billie Holiday is remembered for her emotive voice and the way she used music as a form of expression and activism. Classics such as “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless the Child” highlight her skill in addressing social issues and personal pain.

She had immense resilience and dedication to her art, even in the face of adversity. Her distinctive vocal style, blending melancholy with a unique sense of timing, has profoundly influenced jazz and beyond, making her an enduring icon in the music industry.

Song recommendation: “Strange Fruit”

35. Janis Joplin (1943 – 1970)

With an explosive voice and electrifying stage presence, Janis Joplin revolutionised rock music as one of its first female stars. Her raw, emotional delivery in songs like “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee” captured the spirit of the ’60s counterculture, making her an icon of the era.

Joplin’s brief but impactful career was marked by groundbreaking performances at major festivals, setting the standard for future performances. Her influence is seen in countless artists who emulate her depth of emotion and unapologetic authenticity.

Song recommendation: “Piece of My Heart”

36. Lana Del Rey (1985 – )

Lana Del Rey has redefined the pop music landscape with her cinematic style and melancholic themes. Her breakthrough song, “Video Games”, set the tone for a career that blends Americana, sadcore, and dream pop, crafting an unmistakable sound. Tracks like “Summertime Sadness” and “Born to Die” have become anthems, showcasing her talent for storytelling and atmospheric music.

Lana Del Rey’s influence on modern pop is profound, encouraging artists to explore darker, more introspective themes in their work. Her distinctive voice and aesthetic have paved the way for a new generation of musicians who want to explore themes of nostalgia in their work.

Song recommendation: “Video Games”

37. Nita Strauss (1986 – )

Nita Strauss, a force to be reckoned with in the world of rock and heavy metal guitar, has shattered ceilings with her electrifying performances. Known for her work with Alice Cooper and her solo projects, Strauss has become a symbol of virtuosity and dedication in a genre traditionally dominated by men.

Her notable moments include becoming the first female signature artist with Ibanez guitars, a testament to her influence and skill. Tracks like “Pandemonium” and her instrumental work showcase her ability to blend melody with shredding speed. Strauss’ impact extends beyond her music, inspiring future generations of musicians to pick up a guitar and break boundaries, proving that talent knows no gender.

Song recommendation: “Dead Inside”

38. Etta James (1938 – 2012)

Etta James’ iconic track “At Last” has become a timeless anthem of love and longing, showcasing her powerful, emotional voice that traverses gospel, blues, and jazz.

Throughout her career, James battled personal and professional challenges, yet her music remained a beacon of strength and resilience. Her contributions to music have not only earned her a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but have also cemented her legacy as a pioneer for future generations.

Song recommendation: “At Last”

39. Raye (1997 – )

Despite seeming relatively new to the music scene, Raye has been writing music since 2014. She has produced songs for the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, and David Guetta and has lent her sultry yet powerful voice to various artists over the years. However, her decision to part ways with her record label and release her 2023 album My 21st Century Blues was ultimately a catalyst for her success.

It was this album that won Best Album of the Year at the BRITs. She won six awards in total at the 2024 award show, including Best Songwriter – an accolade only ever received by male artists until now. In fact, this is the most BRIT awards won by any artist in a single year, making her a truly influential female musician.

Song recommendation: “Escapism”

40. Meg White (1974 – )

Drummer of the White Stripes Meg White played a pivotal role in the garage rock revival of the early 2000s. Her minimalist yet powerful drumming style contributed significantly to the band’s distinct sound, best exemplified in hits like “Seven Nation Army” and “Fell in Love with a Girl”.

Meg’s approach to drumming, favouring simplicity and emotion over technical complexity, proved that less can indeed be more in creating impactful music.

Song recommendation: “Seven Nation Army”

41. Patsy Cline (1932 – 1963)

The first solo female artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Patsy Cline was a true legend, one of the first to transition from country to pop. She was also the first woman in country music to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall, paving the way for female musicians after her.

Her classics like “Crazy” and “Walking After Midnight” transcend time, blending country with pop sensibilities in a way that was groundbreaking for her era.

Song recommendation: “Crazy”

42. Nancy Wilson (1954 – )

Nancy Wilson, co-founder of the rock band Heart alongside her sister, is renowned for her extraordinary guitar playing and songwriting skills. With hits like “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda”, she helped define the rock genre in the ‘70s and ’80s, showcasing the power of female musicians in a male-dominated industry.

Wilson’s unique blend of hard rock and folk music, coupled with her pioneering role as a female lead guitarist, has left a lasting impact on music, inspiring countless women to pick up the guitar.

Song recommendation: “Crazy On You”

43. Ann Wilson (1950 – )

As the lead vocalist of Heart, Ann Wilson has been a driving force in rock with her immensely powerful voice. Her dynamic range and operatic intensity on tracks like “Alone” and “Magic Man” have set the standard for female rock vocalists. Both Ann and her sister Nancy are incredibly influential, not least because they formed the first hard rock band to be fronted by women.

Song recommendation: “Alone”

44. Linda Ronstadt (1946 – )

Linda Ronstadt’s diverse career spans rock, country, opera, and Latin music. With hits like “You’re No Good” and “Blue Bayou”, she broke genre barriers, earning multiple Grammy Awards across various categories.

Ronstadt’s influence stretches wide, inspiring artists to explore and blend genres fearlessly. Her decision to record traditional Mexican music with “Canciones de Mi Padre” brought her roots to the forefront, impacting not just music but cultural appreciation.

Song recommendation: “Blue Bayou”

45. Gwen Stefani

As the lead vocalist of No Doubt, Gwen Stefani blended pop and punk and became known for her energetic performances and the way she challenged gender roles.

She then seamlessly transitioned into a solo powerhouse and kept with her pop with ska and punk influences. Her hits, including “Just a Girl” and “Hollaback Girl”, embody empowerment and innovation, marking significant moments in music history. Stefani’s career has also been defined by her fearless reinvention and style, influencing not just music but fashion as well.

Song recommendation: “Sweet Escape”

46. Sheila E. (1957 – )

Sheila E. is an American percussionist and singer, renowned for her work in the pop and funk genres. She became a prominent figure in the music industry through her collaboration with Prince, especially on the hit “The Glamorous Life”.

As a drummer, she has broken barriers with her electrifying performances and mastery of rhythm. As well as her success in the ‘80s, Sheila E. is an advocate for artists’ rights and music education.

Song recommendation: “The Glamorous Life”

47. Roberta Flack (1937 – )

Renowned for her lush voice and emotive music, Roberta Flack achieved fame in the 1970s with hits such as “Killing Me Softly with His Song”, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, and “Feel Like Makin’ Love”. Her ability to blend jazz, soul, and folk music has made her a standout artist of her time.

Flack’s influence in music is profound, not only for her timeless songs but also for her role in breaking racial and gender barriers within the industry. She was the first artist to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year two consecutive times, setting a high standard for artistic achievement.

Song recommendation: “Killing Me Softly With His Song”

48. Missy Elliot (1971 – )

Missy Elliott is a trailblazer in hip-hop and R&B. She embarked on her music career in the early ’90s and quickly became known for her unique style, combining rap, R&B, and avant-garde production.

Hits like “Get Ur Freak On”, “Work It”, and “Lose Control” showcase her ability to blend catchy hooks with complex rhythms and futuristic beats. Her influence is also rooted in the way she pushed the boundaries of music video production and her role in elevating female voices in the hip-hop genre.

In 2019, Elliott became the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Song recommendation: “Work It”


Who is the greatest female musician of all time?

Many would regard Kate Bush as the greatest female musician of all time. Her songwriting talents, ethereal voice, and revolutionary production have cemented her as one of the most influential female musicians. However, this is subjective and the “greatest” depends on your tastes and who has inspired you.

Which female singer has the most top 10 hits?

Taylor Swift is the female singer with the most top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. She has had 40 top-10 hits.

Who is the First Lady of Rock?

Linda Ronstadt is known as the First Lady of Rock and the Queen of Rock, and she has the accolades to show for this, including 11 Grammy Awards and more.

Final thoughts

These are just some of the most influential female musicians of all time. Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day by letting us know in the comments who your music inspirations are and any iconic revolutionary women we may have missed!


Content Writer - Guitars

Maisie is a pianist who's interested in pop, rock, and the role of women in music. She spent her degree focusing on music journalism, specifically the way in which female artists are portrayed in the media. Sometimes, she plays guitar, but this is very rare.



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