Sunday, April 1, 2012

5 Most Influential Women In Rock : Featuring Janis Joplin & Debbie Harry

Janis Joplin, the woman with the big voice and the big smile. The singer-songwriter originally hailed from Texas where she was supposedly an outcast, belonging to a group of other artistic people when she was a teenager. It wasn’t until hearing blues albums by Leadbelly and Bessie Smith that she’d realised what she wanted to do with her life. The artist’s interest in singing began at high school and carried on to performing in coffee houses located within Texas, before expanding her horizons to California and New York.
                                                                                        Despite attempting to get a college education, Joplin became heavily involved with drugs and alcohol. At this point in 1966, her friend Chet Helms had asked her to sing for a psychedelic rock band – which he managed in San Francisco – called Big Brother And The Holding Company. Luckily for Janis this meant huge success for herself and her single “Piece of My Heart”, which sold millions of copies. Janis Joplin had left Big Brother And The Holding Company at the end of 1968 and formed a new band – The Kozmic Blues Band – the following year. Joplin was hugely inspirational in the male-dominated rock era of the ’60s, influencing future musicians such as Stevie Nicks. She has also received a number of songs dedicated to her; for instance, “Chelsea Hotel #2” by Leonard Cohen and “Birdsong” by Jerry Garcia.
Her last album, Pearl, received an outstanding response, featuring her top single “Me and Bobby McGee” – a cover of the original by Kris Kristofferson who she was dating at the time.  Unfortunately the album was not released until after her tragic drug-related death, but she will never be forgotten. Janis will always have a piece of our heart.

Debbie Harry is mostly known for her role as lead singer in punk-rock band, Blondie. Her stage persona of street style and bleach-blonde hair meant that many people referred to her as Blondie, not realising she is in fact part of a group. She states that the inspiration behind naming the band was from passing truck drivers who would shout, “Hey Blondie!” to her. Blondie was a pioneer of the new wave genre in the ’70s and the band experimented with different styles from reggae to pop; each album developed into something more adventurous than the last.
The band was formed with Chris Stein in 1974, whom she has formed a musical and personal relationship with. Similarly to other rock artists in this period, they were not very popular in their native United States, but extremely successful in the UK and in Australia. However, they did receive recognition in the States after the release of the album Parallel Linesin 1978 and won a Canadian Juno Award for Best Selling International Single in 1980 with “Heart Of Glass”. Blondie continued to have a number of hits including “Dreaming”, “Atomic”, “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture”.

Debbie Harry has also released five critically acclaimed solo albums from 1981 onwards, as well as appearing on Broadway and in many feature films. The band had split in 1982, only to get back together in 1997. Their commitment to music shows a lifestyle, rather than a career. A few bumps in the road never brought them down for long. Blondie is said to have influenced many female-fronted bands such as No Doubt, Garbage, The Cardigans, but has also had an impact on male musicians such as Smashing Pumpkins, Blur and Gun Club. Madonna has stated that she’s been influenced by Debbie Harry’s career. To this very day, she continues to be a punk icon and inspiration for lots of new wave and alternative groups.

There are probably – no, wait, there definitely are many more inspiring female musicians in the world. But Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Suzi Quatro, Janis Joplin and Debbie Harry are the five that I believe changed history and have influenced a number of modern-day artists.

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