Where Do Women Stand in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time?

Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All Time

When I saw Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All Time, I was shocked to find that a mere five of the top 100 were female artists. Female musicians have struggled to gain credibility in a largely male dominated field since the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll.

Patti Smith, Horses. Photo courtesy of http://heavenlyrecordings.com/Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks sneak onto the list with 26, “Rumours”, a Fleetwood Mac album. Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” places at 30 while Carole King’s “Tapestry” enters the list at 36. Patti Smith’s “Horses” is ranked as 40. Women of color are virtually forgotten until Aretha Franklin’s “Lady Soul” is listed as 84.

I am left wondering where Carly Simon, Diana Ross and Madonna were on Rolling Stone’s list? Where were Cyndi Lauper and Joan Baez? Where was Cher?

A Few Things Forgotten:

“Give it Up or Let Me Go,” Bonnie Raitt

Although pop music may remember Bonnie Raitt for her ’90s pop hits, she enjoyed a long career as a blues and rock ‘n’ roll queen in the ’70s. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, Raitt was famous for her ragtime infused tunes and deep, soulful pipes. Raitt has recorded with rock and roll legends such as John Lee Hooker, Jackson Browne and John Prine.

Raitt’s second album, “Give it Up or Let Me Go” was released in 1972. The album features classic blues, Dixieland, folk and rock ‘n’ roll. After one spin, you will likely be belting Bonnie’s ballads in the shower.

“Parallel Lines,” Blondie

It is an undisputed fact: Debbie Harry is a rock and roll genius. Harry is famous for her punk roots and new-wave style. Harry penned many of Blondie’s chart toppers herself, proving she was more than her peroxide.

1978’s “Parallel Lines” covered all the bases- even disco! “Heart of Glass” was the first Blondie hit to reach number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. “Parallel Lines” launched Blondie into a commercial pop music icon. Give this one a spin when you have the urge to dance around your bedroom in your underwear.

“Pearl,” Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was known for her free spirited attitude and her tongue in cheek lyrics. Many modern day female artists cite Joplin as an influence and inspiration. Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

“Pearl” was released in 1971, four months after she died from a heroin overdose. Aside from a happy birthday message to John Lennon, “Mercedes-Benz” was her last recording. The song appears acappella on the album because she died before finishing the accompaniment. Many argue the song is hauntingly stronger in this format. Pull this one out when you want to unwind.

Modern Musical Mavens

Female artists often struggle to be taken seriously beyond appearance. Female musicians are often judged on their sexuality and not the music they create. For years, radio stations refused to play two female artists in a row for fear listeners would change the station.

Lately, I have witnessed many females flourish in the music world. Although she may not be my bag, I have to applaud Taylor Swift for writing her own music and positioning herself as a positive role model for young girls.

Jenny Lewis, Photo Courtesy of www.examiner.comFemale-fronted acts like She & Him, Jenny & Johnny and Best Coast renew my faith in modern day music. These are women are involved in the music from the first strum all the way to the studio. These are women who command attention based on tunes, not tits.

Who do you think Rolling Stone forgot? Let me know in the comments.

Oh yeah, and Lady Gaga is ruining rock ‘n’ roll.

More Resources

Tour Diary Four: Rock and Roll is Dead

Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums of All Time

Women in Music

About Sarah James

I am a senior public relations student at Kent State University. I hope to one day work for a nonprofit. I enjoy knitting, writing and biking.
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6 Responses to Where Do Women Stand in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time?

  1. bri says:

    wow. that is pitiful. though i must point out that dusty springfield made the top 100 as well. but i’m not trusting any list that puts pearl jam and no doubt’s “rock steady” before the cure’s “disintegration” and/or pj harvey’s “rid of me” :/

  2. lexi says:

    ugh, taylor swift is not a positive role model for today’s young girls. she is basically prescribing the christian ideal of femininity, in which you should be a sweet, humble little thing, because in the end it will all be worth it when you get the boy…

    sorry. i fucking hate taylor swift. i couldn’t help myself and couldn’t find the article about how much she sucks. not to mention, girl can’t sing.

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    I don’t think you have a valid argument being that Rolling Stone is an abomination to Rock and Roll. It’s a waste of time to even consider their opinions. Their list of Best Guitarists of all time is bullshit with no evidence to back it up. You’re better off picking up a copy of TigerBeat at your local drug store. Sure, women have struggled to get credit from big wig assholes, but why is that a concern to the movement? Why would you want credit from a magazine that doesn’t deserve your respect?

    Let’s say there was a magazine that actually represented the facts. The women i’d choose along side the men wouldn’t even be considered Rock and Roll. That genre died (in my opinion) years ago. We just used it to describe music that gets us pumped. For instance “Best Coast” is recycled, monotone surfer rock for the 60’s. I love their sound but I don’t think they deserve to be in the lime light. They aren’t innovative or pushing music in any direction. To be honest I am glad there were only a few women listed in the lame Rolling Stone list. It gives them more power as actual musicians because they don’t have to be labeled as a “Rolling Stones Best Musicians of All Time”. It would be like a Montana Lunch Lady rating the best food from all over the world without ever leaving the United States. I am embarrassed of Rolling Stone and for those associated with it today.

    Christopher’s Favorite Women Musicians of All Time:

    1. Bjork
    2. Billie Holiday
    3. Bessie Smith
    4. Memphis Minnie
    5. Ella Fitzgerald
    6. Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane)
    7. Amiina

    I quit, it’s not worth making a list. It’s all subjective anyways.

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