Bettye Lavette (January 29, 1946, Muskegon, MI, USA) is a soul singer whose music combines several different influences, from soul and blues to rock, funk, gospel, and even country music. Bettye got her start in 1962 with the single “My Man – He’s a Loving Man”, which was a Top 10 R&B hit. She toured at the time with Ben E King, Clyde McPhatter, Otis Redding, and Barbara Lynn. Her first album, Child of the Seventies, was released in 1972. Bettye saw a revival of interest in 2003, and released her third full length album (A Woman Like Me) that year. Her latest album, Worthy, was released in 2015. (Wikipedia)
Joyce Kennedy (born 1948 in Anguilla, MS) is one of the lead vocalists for funk rock band Mother’s Finest. Joyce began her singing career after moving to Chicago as a child, and recorded the song “Darling I Still Love You” for Ran-Dee Records. She formed Mother’s Finest in the early 1970s with Glenn Murdock, whom she also married. The band saw three albums go gold: Mother’s Finest, Another Mother Further, and Mother Factor.
Mother’s Finest were the opening act for bands such as Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Aerosmith, and The Who. Their songs and albums have explored a variety of social issues, including the seeming conundrum of being (mostly) black rock and roll artists with songs such as “Niggizz Can’t Sing Rock and Roll” and the album Black Radio Won’t Play This Record.
Joyce also has a solo career, reaching number 2 on the Billboard R&B Charts and number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the song “The Last Time I Made Love” (duet with Jeffrey Osbourne). She toured for the last time with Mother’s Finest in 2017.
Barbara Lynn (born January 16, 1942 in Beaumont, TX) is a left-guitarist, songwriter and vocalist best known for the song “You’ll Lose a Good Thing“, which was recorded and released in 1962. The single was a number 1 on the US Billboard R&B Charts, as well as a Top 10 single in the Billboard Hot 100 list of 1962. The song was re-recorded by Aretha Franklin, as well as country musician Freddy Fender. Barbara Lynn played piano as a child, but later switched to guitar. Before making her big break she played in an all-female band called Bobbie Lynn and Her Idols. She was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues foundation in 1999. (Wikipedia)
Mary Lou Williams (born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, GA on May 8, 1910) was a jazz pianist, arranger, and composer. Mary Lou wrote and arranged compositions for jazz heavyweights such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, in addition to hundreds more compositions and arrangements. She taught herself to play piano at six years old, and supported her family by playing at parties while still a child. She recorded hundreds of records in her professional career, and was the first black woman to have a composition (Zodiac Suite) played at Carnegie Hall. Mary Lou died in Durham, NC in 1971 from bladder cancer. She was the mentor and friend of many well-known jazz musicians, including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and more. (Wikipedia)
Sometimes I forget that some people don’t know the full impact that black women had on rock n roll. If you didn’t know it was epic. Without the talent and energy of many wonderful women the state of music today would be blander than Cliff Richard eating a cucumber sandwich.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has officially announced next year’s inductees: Bon Jovi,Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, the Cars and Nina Simone will all join the class of 2018. Sister Rosetta Tharpe will be given an Early Influence award.
Nina Simone died in 2003 and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who has experienced a huge resurgence of interest in the past decade, died in 1973. The Hall of Fame is likely to bring in artists they inspired to perform their music.
I don’t know everything, and that’s where I rely on you all (the readers!) to fill in the gaps. Recently, a reader emailed me a few bands that are led by black women, all of whom I knew nothing about previously. The person doesn’t have any social media that I can shout out, but Jean-Philippe, thank you for sending this information to me!
This is a paste directly from the email. A lot of what Jean-Philippe has to say is deep and relevant, so I’m including most of what was sent here. I love when people send me bands to feature, so if you know of any rock band with a black woman (or women!) in it that hasn’t been featured on this site, please send me an email! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi ! My name is Jean-Philippe from Montreal.
I’ve bought Laina Dawes book ”What are doing here ?” and i must say i learn a LOT not only about the implication and the hard battles that black womens have to endure to making sure they have their place in the scene (punk#HC#Metal) but about the difficulties that these warriors have to face also in front of the relatives (families/friends/etc.) because of the ”akward” choice to love a music who is supposes to be dedicated to the ”masses” but in reality, for black womens, have to front, once again, another form of elitism if not discrimination and racism.
Inspired by the book, i’ve found your web site and i must say it is something that i was definitively missing…. Still A LOT to learn.
Being a punk/HC fan (my knowledge in metal is just awful), here’s some bands i’ve known who black womens were members :
1- WISIGOTH (Late 90’s Montreal). If you don’t know this band, i think you will really like. Zahra is the ”growl” voice in the dual vocals of this crust/punk/metal band.
3-CASEY (France – Discography) Known as the best french rapper, this black women have some of the most bitter, angry yet most intelligent texts. She love the ”HARDCORE” sound in music including rock and punk. She did a rock project with ZONE LIBRE and two lp’s aboslutly stunning lp’s have been release. Here’s one of the videos. Absolutly phenomenal.
one of the best songs of the project… so much despair and anger. A song about the exploited making a revolt against the tyranny on his different forms (bosses, politicians). A song who express how the poor/rejected is facing disdain and disgust from ”them” and the treatement he received with the stress and the despair that bring his destiny.
finally, sorry for the annoyance since you surely already know lots of the infos above. It’s just reading of the book and your web site gave me the occasion to ”go back in class” and make my homeworks about the challaneges that black womens have faced and won with courage and guts in this so-called ”scene for the misfits”.
I was still convinced that I was an outlier in my interest and love for rock music, and created the Black Women In Rock Tumblr blog (archive) to help fill the gap that was missing for me. The original tagline for the blog was Picking up where Black Women Who Rock left off, as a matter of fact!
6 years later (and a migration to WordPress) later, this blog is still kicking and has catalogued over 100 black women rock musicians. I hope to be here forever, helping to break this completely inaccurate conception that black women can’t sing rock and roll.
I finally got my hands on Tetrarch’s new LP Freak, which is a fail on my part because I didn’t realize the whole album was out already! I’ve been waiting for what felt like 84 years for new music from this band, and this thing has been out nearly two full months and I didn’t even realize it.
Freak is a full album, which already makes it wonderful in my eyes. The only thing that sucked about Relentless was that it was too short. Relentless had more of a hard driving, onwards to battle metal sound, but Freak takes a chilled out, nü-metal direction. A couple of songs harken back to Tetrarch’s previous sound (“Oddity” and “Break The Trend”) but most of the album has a KoRn/Slipknot sort of feel to it.
It’s a different sound, and Tetrarch does it well. I highly recommend checking this album out if you’re into metal or hard rock music. The album can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon Music, and can also be streamed on Spotify. Tetrarch is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so show them love!