Women Who Changed the Music World Forever

Did you happen to see H.E.R. play “America the Beautiful” before Super Bowl LV this year? Holy smokes, she shredded the guitar solo. It was really amazing and blew other versions out of the water! And it was also frustrating, too, because even though we are now two decades into the 21st century, a lot of people still said, “Wow! Look—it’s a woman playing guitar!”

But it’s true: women play electric guitars. Or bass, or drums, etc. And they’re amazing singers, too. For as long as men have been rocking out, women have too, but thanks to the patriarchy, societal expectations, and sexism, they are often delegated to background roles or overlooked all together. Bessie Smith was the most renowned blues singer of the Jazz Age, but today her name is hardly mentioned. Susie Quatro is a killer bass player and Lita Ford is an incredible guitarist, but they don’t get nearly as much recognition as their male counterparts.

Luckily, because of the internet and also streaming radio, we are able to hear more of the musical performances by women throughout history. And thanks to books such as the ones below, the stories of these women have also been told. With International Women’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to learn about some of the greatest and unsung (ha!) music heroes.