The greatest female musicians in indie rock

8 March 2022, 11:06

Florence Welch, Shirley Manson and Björk: brilliant women who've made superb music.
Florence Welch, Shirley Manson and Björk: brilliant women who've made superb music. Picture: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty/Pictorial Press Ltd/Ilpo Musto / Alamy Stock Photo

Celebrate International Women's Day as we salute some of the greatest female rock stars of all time.

Radio X

By Radio X

  1. Florence Welch

    Florence Leontine Mary Welch hails from Camberwell and is the unforgettable frontwoman of The Machine...

  2. Ellie Rowsell

    The excellent singer and guitarrist from London rockers Wolf Alice, one of the best new UK bands of recent years.

  3. Skin

    Deborah Anne Dyer is better known as Skin, the fiery singer with rockers Skunk Anansie. She's recently been seen on TV as one of the hidden contestants on The Masked Singer.

  4. Shirley Manson

    Edinburgh native Shirley Manson was originally in the short-lived band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, before hooking up with US musicians and producers Butch Vig and Duke Erikson to form Garbage.

  5. Lauren Mayberry

    The young singer from Glasgow electro-pop trio CHVRCHES was born in Stirling and has a law degree to her name.

  6. Patti Smith

    One of the most influential female musicians of the last 50 years, Patti's seminal 1975 debut album Horses led her to be dubbed the High Priestess of Punk.

  7. Kim Deal

    One of a pair of twin sisters, Kim joined the Pixies and in 1986 and became one of the most famous female alt.rock musicians. Her side project The Breeders saw her collaborate with sibling Kelley, but her association with the reunited Pixies came to an end in 2013.

  8. Courtney Love

    Courtney Michelle Harrison has been vilified, adored, appeared in movies and fronted her own band Hole. But she held her own in the male-dominated world of early 90s grunge rock.

  9. Charlotte Cooper

    The dynamic bassist with The Subways joined brothers Billy Lunn and Josh Morgan in the power trio from Welwyn Garden City.

  10. Björk

    A former child prodigy, Icelandic musician Björk Guðmundsdóttir achieved fame with the much-loved Sugarcubes, before heading off for a stellar solo career in 1993.

  11. Romy Madley Croft

    Romy is one of the founder members of London's The xx. Originally there was another female member: Baria Qureshi, who left just before the release of their debut album, xx.

  12. Chrissie Hynde

    Born in Akron, Ohio, Chrissie Hynde came to London in the mid-1970s and was swept up in the burgeoning punk scene. She fronted the acclaimed post-punk band The Pretenders, who hit Number One in 1980 with Brass In Pocket.

  13. Amy Winehouse

    The late, great Winehouse was probably the best voice of her generation. Her two albums - Frank and Back To Black - are modern classics and her death in 2011, aged 27 stopped a huge talent in its tracks.

  14. Brody Dalle

    Frontwoman with The Distillers, Brody followed up that band with a project called Spinnerette, but is now working solo.

  15. Hayley Williams

    The voice of Paramore, Hayley was born in Meridian, Mississippi in 1988.

  16. PJ Harvey

    Polly Jean Harvey made a huge impression in 1992 when her debut album Dry. She's the only artist to win the Mercury Music Prize twice - in 2001 for Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and in 2011 for Let England Shake.

  17. Siouxsie Sioux

    Born Susan Ballion, Siouxsie was part of the "Bromley Contingent", a group of punk Sex Pistols fans. She formed her own band in 1977 with Sid Vicious on drums, but luckily hired some proper musicians and made some of the most stunning post-punk albums. The Banshees wound up in the mid-1990s and Siouxsie is now a solo artist.

  18. Debbie Harry

    Part of the mid-1970s CBGBs scene, Debbie Harry became world famous by fronting New Wave legends Blondie.

  19. Karen O

    Karen Lee Orzolek is the rambunctious frontwoman of New York scenesters Yeah Yeah Yeahs and one of our favourite people in the whole world.

  20. Self Esteem

    Rebecca Taylor was originally half of Sheffield folk duo Slow Club, but her solo project Self Esteem was born out of a lack of confidence in her own abilities and a desire to break out of the constraints of "indie". Her new music is humorous and unapologetic, embracing pop and R&B.

  21. Beth Gibbons

    The bewitching singer from Portishead was actually born in… Exeter.

  22. Cerys Matthews

    The memorable front woman with Welsh wonders Catatonia is now better known as a radio presenter.

  23. Beth Ditto

    The amazing Ms Ditto is known to her family as Mary Beth Patterson and has been performing with [The] Gossip since 1999.

  24. Elastica

    The Britpop band has a strong female contingent: formed by ex-Suede guitarist Justine Frischmann, she was joined by Donna Matthews on guitar and Annie Holland on bass. Holland left the band in 1996 and was replaced by Sheila Chipperfield.

  25. Nina Persson

    The charismatic singer with Swedish pop band The Cardigans has recorded solo work under her own name and as A Camp.

  26. KT Tunstall

    Edinburgh singer-songwriter Kate Victoria Tunstall made a huge impression on viewers of Later... With Jools Holland in 2004 when she played a solo rendition of her song Black Horse & The Cherry Tree. Her debut album Eye To The Telescope went five times platinum in the UK and Tunstall now lives in Los Angeles, carving out a dual career as a musician and soundtrack composer.

  27. Gillian Gilbert

    Originally a member of Manchester girl band The Inadequates, she started dating Joy Division's Steve Morris in the late 1970s. When JD singer Ian Curtis died in 1980, she joined the remaining members as New Order, taking over extra guitar and keyboard duties. She left the band for ten years to look after her daughter, who was ill, but rejoined in 2011.

  28. Candida Doyle

    Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Candida moved to Sheffield aged ten and became the keyboard player in Pulp in 1984. She's been with them ever since.

  29. Meg White

    Jack White's partner-in-crime in The White Stripes attracted much derision for her musicianship, but none other than Dave Grohl named her as one of his favourite drummers: "Nobody fucking plays the drums like that”, he said.

  30. Charlotte Hatherley

    Charlotte originally came to fame as the second guitarist in Ash, but later carved out her own, acclaimed solo career, which included a stint playing with Bat For Lashes.