I was in junior high when I grew interested in my dad’s record collection. The stereo system resided in the downstairs family room that was literally 3 feet from my bedroom door. So I would sit night after night (ahem, well after my bed time) in front of the stereo, giant headphones on, transferring my favorite songs onto cassette tape.
That’s when I fell in love with Janis Joplin’s voice and she first made it to my list of best female rock singers. That raspy purr, like a drunken lion growling in the night. I would emulate it with my friends, entertain myself with this incomparable voice. In college, I would attempt to sing her songs at karaoke, and I’m sure some people appreciated my renditions, but I’m also fairly certain I came nowhere close to her nonchalant rock ‘n’ roll greatness.
Last year I shared with you the Best Male Rock Singers (A Highly Subjective List), and this is the female counterpart. Where I was inspired by the men for the rocker lead in my novel, these are the women who inspired the protagonist, and who continue to inspire me with their voices.
The raw energy of an effortless cool that cuts right through you with its howling.
A driving powerhouse. Melodic. Operatic, even. And the range! Oooh, barracuda.
Raspy, pleading, soul-baring. She pours her heart out and asks you for your love, that is all.
Husky. Controlled. She can distort and contort her voice to bring the rawk.
A 1950s rebel half a century removed. With a sexy alto croon that is unwavering.
She believes it. You believe it. I’m sure what “it” is, but I want to be her.
She’s got balls, man. She doesn’t give up. She’s gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha.
She’s so unusual. Her signature staccato vocal stylings are unparalleled. She might be the only person who’s ever turned the word “fun” into two syllables.
I’ll end with my very first girl rock crush (pre-Janis, even). Her voice can be supernaturally pretty and melodic. But then, in an instant, she turns urgent, insistent. Don’t you mess around with her, no no no.
Who would make your list of favorite female rock vocalist? Don’t be shy …