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by Justin Farrar

June 12, 2012

Cheat Sheet: Hard Rockin' Ladies Who Take Crap From Nobody

by Justin Farrar  |  June 12, 2012

Move on over, bros. With new releases from Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Heart, and the immortal Patti Smith, we here at Rhapsody are celebrating, yes, all the hard-rockin' ladies out there who've never taken crap from anybody. Well, actually, that's not true. Many of the women spotlighted below have dealt with plenty of crap from the male-dominated music business. Yet they never buckled, and slowly scrapped their way to making some utterly kick-ass music.

In fact, sometimes, a woman's hard-rockin' quotient seems to be directly proportional to the crap endured. Probably the most infamous example is Tina Turner. Her violent exploration of her voice's outer limits (the screeching orgasm at the 2:50 mark of "River Deep-Mountain High") must have been, on some core level, linked to her violently abusive relationship with Ike Turner, a true pioneer of rock and roll, but a lousy human for sure. Janis Joplin's throat-tearing intensity was also intertwined with a demon, though in her case one that crept into her psyche during a painful and insecurity-ridden childhood. But this didn't stop her from influencing just about every macho longhair who fronted a hard rock or heavy metal band in the '70s and '80s. Chew on the delicious irony for a second (or two): Robert Plant's whole from-the-crotch swagger is based on the from-the-crotch swagger of a woman. It's true.

For Joan Jett and Patti Smith, hard-rockin' has meant taking a blowtorch to every prefab stereotype show biz has forced females to conform to. From a guy's point of view, Smith is legendary for looking and rocking like one of them (complete with armpit hair). But that, not surprisingly, misses the point. What she really did was take preconceived notions of sexuality, toughness and beauty, and blend them into a finely whipped confusion that ventured far beyond the male/female dichotomy. Jett, by contrast, is more comfortable with traditional sexiness (tight, black leather is h-o-t, right?), yet her Suzi Quatro-informed persona is a slyly complex mix of boyish teenage angst, "biker chick" posturing torn from the pages of 1950s pulp fiction, and proto-Riot Grrrl self-awareness that is all resolutely post-modern.

Finally, there is the traditional vixen: those ladies in stilettos and mouth-watering attire who look to the female black widow for inspiration. Their power is based on a simple maxim: "Your every desire will be granted, and you'll regret it!" In the last several years, few rockers have embodied the vixen so perfectly as Halestorm's Lzzy Hale. Dig these telling lyrics:

Better be scared, better be afraid
Now that the beast is out of her cage
And I know you
Wanna risk it
Soon though you
Are so addicted
Boy you better run for your life

'Nuff said, right?

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