This page salutes the rise of professional female guitarists. Thanks to pioneers like Bonnie Raitt and Joan Jett, women have earned an equal place in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Info on them is still hard to find, though, so your suggestions for the content of this page are welcome! (text, images, URLs - yours or others). Meanwhile...
Bonnie picked up the guitar at age nine, and was on her way toward mastering a unique folk and country blues style derived from listening to recordings by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Mississippi Fred McDowell and John Hammond.
Bonnie Raitt continues to be a unique presence in popular music, touring extensively, recording her own albums, as well as singing and playing on many others, and remaining a voice of conscience on myriad of social issues.
In the political arena, Bonnie has long been at the forefront of bridging social consciousness and popular music. Coming from a Quaker-activist background, she has performed many concerts for women's organizations, and environmental, peace and human rights groups, especially in support of opponents of nuclear power and intervention in Central America.
As an active live performer, Raitt does more than a hundred concerts a year, dividing them between "acoustic" shows with her bass/guitar player Johnny Lee Schell, and shows with her full band featuring more R&B and rock 'n'roll.
By playing pure and simple rock & roll without making an explicit issue of her gender, Joan Jett became a figurehead for several generations of female rockers. Jett's brand of rock & roll is loud and stripped down, yet with overpowering hooks -- a combination of the Stones' tough, sinewy image and beat, AC/DC chords and glam-rock hooks.
As the numerous covers she has recorded show, she adheres both to rock tradition and breaks with it -- she plays classic three-chord rock & roll, yet she also loves the trashy elements (in particular, Gary Glitter) of it as well, and she plays with a defiant sneer. From her first band, the Runaways, through her hit-making days in the '80s with the Blackhearts right until her unexpected revival in the '90s, she hasn't changed her music, yet she's kept her quality control high, making one classic single ("I Love Rock-n-Roll") along the way.
Joan Jett has been one of the biggest influences for women in rock music. Not only did she prove it could be done, but she took it to a new level and has been an inspiration for many. She came, seemingly out of nowhere, with the incredible hit "I Love Rock N Roll." While this may not have been her first hit, it's certainly the one that had the most impact. From there she went on to greatness.
Her trademark black hair is now blonde but she still has the attitude and the voice. She was inspired by the likes of "Suzy Quatro" and the "Sex Pistols." Those who have been inspired by her, are bands like "Nine Inch Nails" and "Lilith Fair." She's collaborated with many outstanding bands and toured with an incredible amount of stunning stars. This is one lady who's managed to make it to the top in a time when girls in rock were shunned, and made the best of her time in the spotlight.
A folkie in punk's clothing, Ani DiFranco battled successfully against the Goliath of corporate rock to emerge as one of the most influential and inspirational cult heroines of the 1990s. A resolute follower of D.I.Y. ethos, DiFranco released her records through her own indie label Righteous Babe, slowly but steadily building a devout grass-roots following on the strength of a relentless tour schedule; an ardent feminist and an open bisexual, her songs tackled issues like rape, abortion and sexism with insight and compassion, the music's empowering attitude and anger tempered by the poignant candor of singer-songwriter confessionalism.
Born in Buffalo, New York on September 23, 1970, DiFranco began her career at the age of nine, when her guitar teacher helped her land her first gig -- performing a set of Beatles covers -- at an area coffeehouse. Befriended by the likes of Suzanne Vega and Michelle Shocked, she later gave up music to study ballet, but at the age of 14 returned to the guitar and began composing her first songs. A year later, alienated from her crumbling family structure, she left home, living with friends while making the rounds of the Buffalo folk club circuit.
Ani DiFranco: Just an Old-Fashioned Girl (with Blue Hair) (NY Rock) Just who is Ani DiFranco anyway? Doc Martin-clad punk-poet icon, do-it-yourself business guru, feminist folksinger: there are so many sides to this Buffalo girl from upstate New York that she's almost round.
Indigo Girls have always been pathfinders. In the past, they've worked with musicians as diverse as Michael Stipe, Jane Siberry, Jackson Browne, the Roches and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Impatient with labels, they've crafted memorable music from a tapestry of elements: folk, rock, world beat, indigenous music, choral tradition. The Indigo's ongoing commitment to social as well as musical change was exemplified by their 1995 "Honor The Earth" tour, a month-long, 21-stop benefit concert trek which raised more than $300,000 for Native American environmental groups; and by the release (on Amy Ray's own Daemon Records label) of an accompanying CD, Honor, featuring Bonnie Raitt, Soul Asylum and Victoria Williams among others.
"Short Sharp Shocked, produced by Pete Anderson in 1988, displayed talent, combining the informal, tradition-rooted folkiness of The Texas Campfire Tapes with a strong post-modern feminist perspective and punk attitude. The album quickly earned her respect among the alternative community and critics. In an unexpected move, Michelle Shocked returned in 1989 with Captain Swing, a '40s-style big-band swing outing that shocked her fans initially but had no shortage of strong material. In 1992, she took something of a step back with Arkansas Traveller, a rootsy collection of songs based on the blackface minstrelsy that covered all forms of early American, homegrown music. In 1993, Mercury finally became fed up with her confusing style jumping and refused to release her proposed gospel album. She then left on a solo tour...".
Inspiration came with equal doses of intimidation when Deana Carter was learning to play and write songs. Her father, Fred Carter Jr., was a highly regarded session player, working regularly with and befriending such legendary performers as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Gordon Lightfoot and Simon & Garfunkel. As such, Deana set high standards for her own music.
Once in a while an artist comes along that makes you wonder what you were doing while they were practicing. You know the type: they can play circles around you on your own instrument--and a half dozen others. Anita Cochran is one of those people. She got her name from Anita Carter of the legendary Carter family and joined her family band at the young age of 5.
Meredith Brooks claims to be a lot of things in her hit song Bitch. Ironically, she leaves guitarists off the list. Not that she needs to mention it; her playing speaks for itself. Still, a lot of listeners--imagining her simply a singer--might not be aware of Meredith's six-string prowess.