15 Female Rock Singers of the 80s You Will Love

The 1980’s saw women in music reaching unparalleled levels of commercial success. While pop stars like Madonna and Janet Jackson immediately spring to mind, what about all the great female rock singers of the 80s? Well, join me as I take you through 15 of my favorite female rock singers of the era. There will be a mixture of familiar names and some hidden gems you’ll want to check out.

Best Female Rock Singers of the 80s

Now if you want an ethereal, experimental, genre-bending artist from the 1980s, you can’t go wrong with Kate Bush. If you want to discover a band that had a huge influence on grunge and alternative rock, check out Kim Deal’s music with the Pixies. Another very notable female rock singer is Debbie Harry, who had a lot of hits with the great new wave band Blondie. 

1. Debbie Harry

One great rock singer of the 80’s is Debbie Harry from the iconic New York band Blondie. While they started in the 70’s, the band had their biggest hit in the early 80’s with “Rapture” from Autoamerican. Debbie Harry had a full, feminine voice but always knew when to rock. She was adept at many vocal styles.

Favorite Song by Debbie Harry: “Rapture” is an iconic track, one of the first major songs to blend rock music and hip-hop. The song had a large impact on the new hip-hop genre

2. Sabina Classen

This next entry in the list is an obscure choice for all the metal heads out there. Classen was the vocalist for the criminally overlooked German thrash metal band Holy Moses. Her vocals were so aggressive and brutal she could easily hang with her male peers in the genre anytime. 

Favorite Song by Sabina Classen: “Finished with the Dogs,” the title track from Holy Moses’ 1987 album, is everything you could possibly want in a thrash metal song. It’s brutal and Classen’s vocals give the band a unique edge.

3. Pat Benatar

Although not a metal singer like our last entry on the list, Pat Benatar could still rock alongside the best of them. While she’s more famous for her pop hits like “Love is a Battlefield,” Benatar’s early 80’s work is solid hard rock.

Favorite Song by Pat Benatar: “You Better Run” is a great hard rock track. Benatar took this old 60’s tune and revamped it with a slick, 80’s rock edge. Her voice has a lot of style.

4. Kim Deal

While Kim Deal would go on to have greater success with The Breeders in the 90’s, I think Deal’s best work was with the Pixies in the 80’s. She shared vocal duties with Frank Black, but Kim’s songs are the sweetest and catchiest in the band’s catalogue. While Kim doesn’t have proper vocal training, she has such a unique voice I love.

Favorite Song by Kim Deal: “Gigantic,” from Pixies’ 1987 debut Surfer Rosa, is a great rock tune. The soft-loud-soft songwriting style of Deal and the Pixies was a huge influence on Kurt Cobain

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5. Joan Jett

Jett got her start with The Runaways back in the 70’s, but her solo career in the 80’s is what propelled the leather jacket-clad rocker to superstardom. Jett was one of the first punk rockers to achieve mainstream success, but she never once changed her style or tried to sweeten her sound for the masses. 

Favorite Song by Joan Jett: “Crimson and Clover” is Jett’s cover of an old tune by Tommy James and the Shondells, but I think Jett made it her own here. It’s a slower, more romantic track for Jett, and it shows the range of her voice. 

6. Stevie Nicks

While most of us know and love Stevie Nicks for her 70’s work with the legendary classic rock group Fleetwood Mac, Nicks did quite well for herself in the 80’s with a successful solo career. From her hit duet with Tom Petty to her signature song “Edge of Seventeen,” Nicks in the 80’s had more of a rock edge without Fleetwood Mac around.

Favorite Song by Stevie Nicks: “Edge of Seventeen” is a hit for a reason. It’s one of those songs most of us would recognize after only a few notes. Nicks sings with a ton of passion here.

7. Exene Cervenka

While never reaching widespread mainstream success, Exene Cervenka was the best singer on the best songs by the classic Los Angeles punk band X. She often shared vocal duties with guitarist John Doe, and they were a perfect match. X’s music is reminiscent of bands like the Ramones but with a unique twist.

Favorite Song by Exene Cervenka: “The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss” is the great closer track from X’s 1980 debut Los Angeles. This song has a 50’s rock feel while still sounding totally fresh and unique. 

8. Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde is one of the lucky female rock singers to come from the punk rock world and actually achieve mainstream success. She wrote a ton of great songs with new wave band The Pretenders, and her vocals were always a cut above most punk and new wave singers of the era. Hynde had a lot of sensuality and attitude to her voice.

Favorite Song by Chrissie Hynde: “Back on the Chain Gang” is my favorite of the Pretenders’ 80’s work. It’s a great single with an upbeat, rocking vibe to it, and Hynde sounds great.

9. Belinda Carlisle

Belinda Carlisle might have dived into the pop world with her solo career, but her work in the early 80’s with all-female new wave group The Go-Go’s is great. While not a technically great singer, she had a lot of passion, spunk, and attitude, and that’s what makes great rock n’ roll. 

Favorite Song by Belinda Carlisle: “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s is one of those eternal 80’s hits that never gets old. It’s both rocking and fun and can appeal to a variety of audiences. 

10. Siouxsie Sioux

Siouxsie Siouxis easily one of the top female rock singers of the 80s. She actually got her start with the British punk scene in the 70’s, and throughout the 80’s helped pioneer the post-punk movement, as well as the goth rock movement.

Her fashion sense and vocal style have been copied ad nauseam, yet few if any have done either as well as Sioux did decades ago. Her band Siouxsie and the Banshees released a lot of great music.

Favorite Song by Siouxsie Sioux: “Slowdive,” from her 1982 A Kiss in the Dreamhouse album, is a haunting and ethereal track. The 90’s shoegaze band Slowdive got their name from this experimental, psychedelic song

11. Kim Gordon

Another female bassist named Kim who was in a seminal indie rock band in the 80’s, Kim Gordon is a pioneer. For three decades she helped front Sonic Youth with her then-husband Thurston, and often Kim’s dark and brooding vocals and tendency towards experimental noise rock made her stand out amongst the other guys in the band. 

Favorite Song by Kim Gordon: “Cross the Breeze” is Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon at their best. This track from 1988’s landmark Daydream Nation album is a noisy mess, but there’s beauty to be found in the chaos thanks to Kim’s great vocals.

12. Doro

Dorothee Pesch, more commonly known solely as “Doro,” is a heavy metal legend. She was a woman in heavy metal when such a thing was still rare, and she has never stopped belting out heavy hitters ever since. She has an operatic voice register.

Favorite Song by Doro: “Burning the Witches” is the title track from her band Warlock’s 1984 debut album, and it’s an awesome headbanger. This early period of Warlock’s music is raw and Doro’s vocals sound fresh and powerful.

13. Wendy O. Williams

The late Wendy Williams got her claim to fame in the early 80’s as the spunky and over-the-top vocalist of punk/metal crossover act The Plasmatics. Wendy had a raw stage presence and a ton of energy in her vocals. She wasn’t a “proper” singer, but she had more attitude and style than any amount of training can get you.

Favorite Song by Wendy O. Williams: “The Damned” is an awesome heavy track that closes out The Plasmatics’ 1982 album Coup d’Etat. Wendy goes from punk rocker to metal singer in the same song, and it’s a thrill to hear.

14. Elizabeth Fraser

Fraser was the vocalist of the pioneering dream pop and post-punk band Cocteau Twins. Fraser’s voice was more abrasive early on, but in the mid-80’s she switched to a soothing style of vocals. She often isn’t even saying actual words in Cocteau Twins songs, but her voice has so much grace and elegance that it doesn’t even matter.

Favorite Song by Elizabeth Fraser: “Aloysius,” from 1984’s Treasure, is such a beautiful song. It’s uplifting, dreamy, and Fraser sounds unlike any other singer.

15. Kate Bush

While she’s enjoyed a resurgence due to her exposure on Stranger Things, Kate Bush has so much more great music. She has one of the most unique voices in music history, and every single album she’s done is completely different from the last. She’s experimented with so many different genres but draws a lot of influence from 70’s progressive rock and jazz fusion like Steely Dan and Frank Zappa.

Favorite Song by Kate Bush: “Get Out of My House” is one of the weirdest songs ever put to tape, and it’s a wonder it even works. The song manages to cover a ton of musical ground and sounds heavy and at times frightening, but it’s also very moving. Kate’s vocals are amazing.  

There you have it, just 15 of the best female rock singers of the 80’s. If anyone ever tells you women didn’t rock in the 80’s, show them some of these artists. There’s a lot of great music to discover if you dive into each of these women’s discographies. Thanks for reading. 

This article was written by Avery and edited by Michael.

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