Not so long ago, I wrote a piece about the finest female guitarists in the world. It was a worthy article, and one that was just what was needed to break the shackles and set some records straight. Guitar is for everyone, and so is the legendary status that many male and female guitarists have gone on to achieve.
With the Women’s Day fast approaching, I thought “why not celebrate this with a site-wide sale coupled with a list to honor the female guitarists and their contributions a little more?”
Brilliant Females - Brilliant Guitarists
Let’s kick things off with H.E.R. Yes, somebody left a comment, and as it turns out, I had already done my homework.
For those who may not know, I assure you; listen to her playing once, and you would continue to do so for the rest of your life. First things first, her name is Gabi Wilson, and if you are wondering, that acronym stands for Having Everything Revealed. She can play five instruments, and she is exceptionally good at each of these. Of course, we are more interested in the guitar.
She has won two Grammys in 2018, and has 13 nominations so far. Despite having a massive stardom, she leads a very simple life. Unlike fellow celebrities, she prefers to blend in and keep a low profile. While she knows how to play the piano and the drums, she is a maestro with the guitars. Some of her finest works can be heard in:
- Hard place
- I used to know her
- Could’ve been
- Slow down
- I can’t breathe
- Better than I imagined
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
When it comes to Rock and Roll, we already know how that era turned out to be. It was one of the most vibrant eras in the history of guitars. While the world mostly paid attention to the male contributors, there was one female artist who was changing the history ever so quietly. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an American singer, a recording artist, a songwriter, but above all, she went on to become the godmother of rock and roll. The renowned TV network, BBC, also featured an hour long documentary under the same name.
Not a single female guitarist could create such a profound impact quite like she did. Combining her love for the Gospel with music, she created spiritual lyrics and rhythms that no one could resist. Her music moved the masses, and she went on to establish a completely different genre. If that wasn’t enough, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry were influenced by her music. If you are able to influence any of the legendary musicians, just one, you know you are worth so much more. She influenced numerous, and that goes to show just how much she is worthy to be remembered and honored by all of us guitarists, men and women.
Be sure to listen to the following, just to find out how powerful her music really was:
- Strange things happening every day
- Precious memories
- Silent night (the Christmas hymn)
- Up above my head, I hear music in the air
You might have heard about a band named Heart. This is the same band that went on to do the iconic cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heavens at the Kennedy Center Honors, using an orchestra, a couple of choirs. It was such a powerful tribute that Kennedy Center released a special track on iTunes, and it went to hit number one right away. At the heart of this incredible performance was Nancy Wilson, the guitarist and the backing vocalist.
Nancy, apart from being a singer and guitarist, is also a songwriter, a film composer and a producer. Her guitar skills are lauded around the world, and that is for a very good reason. She has fused together flamenco and the classical guitar techniques with hard rock, and has managed to redefine music in a completely new way. She has remained active since 1972, which is why she was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Heart in 2013. Gibson, the renowned guitar makers, also ranked her as the eighth-greatest female guitarist of all time, and that is quite an achievement.
I invite you to hear some of her incredible works in the following tracks, and treat your musical buds with some incredible music:
- These dreams
- Barracuda (Yes! The one featured in Guitar Heroes)
- Magic man
- Crazy on you
From the world of Jazz comes another legend that graced the world with her exceptional guitar skills and music. She was Emily Remler, and for the 20 years that she was active, she was a force to be reckoned with. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix, and Johnny Winters, she wanted to pursue music as her career, and picked guitar as her choice of instrument. She went on to learn at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in the 70s. It was during this period that she was influenced by jazz guitarists, such as Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis, Joe Pass and Pat Martino. Before she knew it, she was grooving and playing jazz like she belonged with the genre. She was praised by Herb Ellis, who stated that she was the “new superstar of guitar,” and went on to introduce her to the world at the Concord Jazz Festival in the year 1978. That introduction is what gave her the platform to show her true prowess, and she did exactly that. She died in 1990, meaning that she only had a short period at the stage, but that alone was significant to show the world that music isn’t limited by genders, age, race or color.
Some of her famous work can be heard in:
- Blues for Herb
- The Firefly
- Perk’s Blues
Not many female guitarists in the world can claim to dominate the otherwise male-dominated world of rock music. As it turns out, Joan Jett is one of the rare exceptions. A singer, a songwriter, and a successful producer, Joan Jett began her career as a teenager as a part of the punk-pop band called The Runaways. Today, she is one of the most influential women in rock, if not the most influential one out there.
Jett started working with numerous people and bands, but eventually decided to pursue a solo career. After being rejected by 23 companies, she and fellow producer Kenny Laguna established their own label Blackheart Records in 1980. This made her the first female artist to “own and have direct control over an independent record company.” (Biography.com editors, 2020).
Today, Joan continues to help new female talents to find the platform they need to kick-start their careers. She is also involved in a lot of philanthropic work as well. Some of her famous work includes:
- Love hurts
- Crimson and clover (cover)
- Fake friends
Joni Mitchell is yet another incredible female guitarist that deserves our appreciation and salutations. For works like “Both sides now” and “Big yellow taxi,” she is considered as a royalty of the 60s and 70s.
Joni Mitchell is a singer and a songwriter, as well as a guitarist. She has gone on to win a total of eight Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. Besides being a musician, she is a fighter. Having suffered through polio, a compress larynx, she soldiered on until she called it a day and retired from music. Of course, no one can expect a 77-years-old lady to step on that stage and continue to perform the way she did, but I assure you; if the day comes when she says she will, you better be ready!
Here are a few tracks that have certainly inspired me:
- Both sides now
- A case of you
- Big yellow taxi
- Urge for going
Mother Maybelle Carter
What are the odds for a legendary guitarist to become a son-in-law to yet another legendary guitarist? Quite astronomical, I presume. That is exactly what happened when Johnny Cash, the icon himself, married the daughter of Maybelle Carter, who would later go on to earn a rightful place in the history as Mother Maybelle Carter.
She was an American Country musician, and saying she was good is an understatement of the century. Her work has gone on to inspire many, many guitarists around the world. She invented a style called the Carter Scratch, and some refer to it as the Thumb-lead Style. It was beyond magical, to say the least, and you don’t even have to take my word for it either. Just go to YouTube and search for “Wildwood Flower” to hear just how incredible of a guitar player she was. Another one to listen to is “The Cannon Ball.”
She has remained as a part of the Original Carter Family, Carter Sisters and eventually was known for her newly formed group now called Carter Family, where she and her daughters led the charge.
Mother Maybelle Carter was the first commercial recording that featured Maybelle herself. Recorded in 1959, and released a few years later, she went on to become a household name for many across the world. Despite her massive success, she remained without a victory until 39 years into her career where she was invited to the podium to present an award to someone else. It was later revealed that she was the intended winner and that it was only to get her excited. Naturally, she shed quite a few tears, but it was her salvation. The award read “Mother of Country Music.” She was later inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970. She, along with her band-mate Sara Carter, were the first females to be inducted into this prestigious Hall of Fame.
Bonnie Raitt is a blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, as well as an activist. She is another legend that has often gone on unheard, but we did, and we loved it!
The 10 times Grammy Award winner, Bonnie was ranked as the 50th in the Rolling Stone’s “100 greatest singers of all time,” and that is a significant guitarists of all time.” Today, she continues to be an activist, but it is her legacy in the music world that continues to dominate the minds and hearts of those around the world.
Her lyrics, and her guitars were a match made in heavens. It is fairly obvious
in all of her work why she is hailed as one of the finest blues artists to have
- I can’t make you love me
- The thing called love
- Ain’t gonna let you go
- Something to talk about
These are just four of her many tracks that one should listen to, at least once before leaving the world behind. These are a pure source of inspiration, and her vocals only go on to instil a sense of peace, calm, love and joy in everyone’s heart.
You Inspire Us!
I cannot find it in myself to say which one of these fine artists went on to inspire me the most. Truth be told, they all chipped in through their own magical and unique ways. Each one of them deserve a place in the history books, and that too written with golden ink. The times today are not as difficult as they were back then, especially for women, and these brave few souls stepped right out of the side-lines to not only grab success and steal the show, but they went on to dominate the otherwise manly world of guitars and music.
Some of these legends have left us with their legacies while some continue to remain among us. Wherever they are, whoever they are, know that you have inspired souls in places you cannot even imagine, in countries where tyranny and wars might be waging, and in cities where music might have completely deformed had you not stepped in and shared your music. You have made the world a better place for us little guitarists and musicians, and to you we say “Thank you!”
You are the icons, the legends, and the inspiration for billions of women across the globe. Even though I may not be one myself, I know that you have inspired people from the far edges of the map, and each and everyone would join me in saying “Happy International Women’s Day” to you! Thank you for who you are, and thank you for all that you have given us.
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