10 Black Female Legends of Rock and Roll


tina turnerSay the phrase “rock and roll” and musical giants like the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin or Bob Dylan may come to mind. Though popularized by white artists, rock is originally a black art form that was born out of  the fusion of jazz, blues and gospel.

Black women musicians, the unknown and the famous alike, have played a significant role in making rock music what it is today. Here is a list of  ten all-time favorite black women musicians who have left their mark on rock and roll.


British punk rocker Poly Styrene (born Marian Joan Elliot-Said) spent her musical career coloring outside of the lines. As Robert Christgau of NPR Music pointed out, Styrene was a black girl innovating a musical genre dominated by white men and a punk who rocked neon colors when black was the reigning fashion trend. She was the front woman of the X-Ray Spex.
Funk singer Betty Davis was an icon of black girl musical liberation. Known for her daring fashion choices and her brief marriage to music legend Miles Davis, she is credited with greatly influencing Miles artistically and becoming the prototype of the sexually liberated female vocalist. Though Davis is not explicitly a rock and roll artist there can be no doubt that her distinctive voice, which was more of a growl, has influenced rock and roll vocalists to this day.
Watching Tina Turner perform in her heyday was like a watching a visual symphony of bouncing hair, sequins, and legs crescendo on stage. And of course there is her voice, that raspy and gut-wrenching instrument that has cemented her status as a vocal titan. She and her ex-husband, the late Ike Turner, once opened for the Rolling Stones in 1969, and covered The Beatles’  “Come Together,” leaving their irrevocable mark on rock and roll history.



There is little doubt that Brittany Howard’s vocals, which are reminiscent of a female Otis Redding, are the fuel behind Alabama Shakes’ recent popularity. Howard and her band mates’ blend of Southern rock and soul have garnered them three Grammy nominations thus far.
“[Straight Line Stitch front woman Alexis Brown] has the voice of an angel, the stage presence of a metal goddess and the looks of a model. Though she’s done away with her trademark colored braids, it’s always been her incredible voice that brings the fans to the shows. Her vocal range is what sets her apart. She can do hardcore and then flip smoothly into a soft melody without batting an eye.” Text by Rustyn Rose of Metalholic.com
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