If you thought that black women only sing jazz, R&B and soul, you’re definitely wrong. Black women can be found in a wide range of music genres, including rock! You heard me right! There are black women in the rock scene and we can’t help but be proud of them.
We’ll take a look at the top black female rock singers below. Be sure to check out their music, you might just find you like it!
1. Tina Turner
The American-born dancer and actress was the main singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before becoming a solo performer. Her music career began in 1957 with the hit “A Fool in Love.” Before disbanding their partnership in 1976, Ike and Tina Turner released several hits, including “River Deep” and “Proud Mary.”
Even when most people thought Tina Turner’s prime was over, she starred in one of the greatest comebacks in music history. In 1984 she released the grammy winning album Private Dancer, which among its tracks had the Record of the Year “What’s Love Got to Do With It”.
Besides music, Tina Turner has been featured in films like “Tommy” and “Last Action Hero.” As one of the best-selling black female rock stars, Tina Turner has sold over 100 million records. In addition, she has received multiple awards, including 12 Grammy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award.
She’s widely known as the queen of rock and roll.
2. Poly Styrene
The British-born musician is best known for her hits “Oh Bondage Up Yours” and “The Day the World Turned.” She was the first black woman in the United Kingdom to form a successful rock band.
Before starting her music career in Britain, Poly Styrene got amused by different cultural niches, including clothing and politics. In her biography, Poly says it’s her mother who made her get an interest in music.
After arriving in New York in 1977, her mother was discontented with the city. She even thought her daughter would indulge in hard drugs and other aspects of American culture.
Poly Styrene formed her band in 1979 but later struggled with mental health issues. She joined the Hare Krishna movement and embarked on a journey to India to achieve her spiritual interests. Before her demise in 2011, Poly received several awards, such as British Independent Film Awards, BAFTA Scotland Award, and The Grierson Trust British Documentary Award.
3. Britanny Howard, A Black Female Rock Star
Britanny Howard is a famous guitarist who works with the American band Alabama Shakes. She first debuted in 2011 with the hit “Boys & Girls.” Her natural and full-throated voice made her famous anywhere she played. Britanny group Alabama Shakes won their first Grammy award in 2015.
She didn’t launch her solo career until 2019 with a hit, “Jaime,” which has had multiple Grammy nominations. Jaime talks about their family’s challenges, including growing up poor and racial discrimination. On the track “Goat Head,” she narrates how a stranger damaged her father’s tires and put a goat head on his truck.
Other popular singles include “You Will Never Walk Alone” and “History Repeats.” The song “History Repeats” warns about same-sex love declaration, where she realizes there’s more about her life. She has gained recognition, especially when on big auditorium United States tours.
4. Tamar Kali
Tamar Kali is a second-generation American songwriter based in New York. She gained popularity after releasing several recordings, including “Climbing Up the Walls,” “Mudbound Theme,” and “Unravelings.”
The fierce composer has a supreme passion and voice, which has helped her perform on multiple international stages with other popular musicians like Roger Waters. During her career, Tamar Kali has earned countless awards, like the World Soundtrack Academy 2018 Discovery of the Year Award.
As a composer, Tamar Kali got to her hallmark in 2019 when she released four films. Her current artistic landscape includes a project at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and an EP that features “My Morning Cameo.”
5. Militia Vox
Militia Vox began her career at only eight years, reciting in malls and working with concert choirs. The award-winning solo artist has had a successful career, releasing some popular songs, including “Born Out of Darkness” and “Nyctophilia.”
She is one of the artists who performed at the Wasteland Weekend Festival, often considered one of the largest rock festivals in the world.
Besides music, Militia Vox regularly speaks at conferences like the NAMM Show. In addition, she is a full member of the Society of Composers and an advocate for the NARAs. Militia Vox represents other musicians fighting for copyright claims and other art spaces.
Throughout her career, Militia Vox has received three Global Music Awards and is a great contender for Grammy Awards.
6. Fefe Dobson
Fefe Dobson has been a singer and songwriter since she was 20 years old. She declined to follow in the footsteps of other teenyboppers by refusing to sign a contract with Jive Records. Fefe has worked with well-known producers and co-writers to produce “Guitar Hooks and Little Piano Licks.”
Although her first two albums were successful, she has always faced instances of racism, especially in song reviews. Nevertheless, Fefe Dobson continues producing hits like “Everything” to create racially inclusive societies.
7. Joan Armatrading
The British singer and guitarist is among the first British-born black females to gain international recognition. Joan Armatrading has been honored numerous times for her eclectic sound and performance. Joan has also been attributed for not buckling to the current trends in her music genre.
With over 21 albums in her collections, her latest release has reached millions of rock music lovers worldwide. Besides her international success, Joan Armatrading has won several awards, including three Grammy Awards and an MBE from the Queen of England.
She has also been nominated to Brit two times and is a proud winner of the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection. Joan became the first female singer of British origin to appear in the Billboard Blues chart and the first artist from the United Kingdom to earn a nomination in the Grammy Blues category.
The hit “Into The Blues” was number one for ten consecutive weeks. Since then, she has traveled worldwide, promoting the song while performing on stage. Her last worldwide tour took place in 2015 and covered around 235 dates.
8. Skin (Deborah Anne Dyer)
Deborah Anne Dyer, better known by her stage name Skin, is a British singer, songwriter, and musician who rose to fame as the lead vocalist of the rock band Skunk Anansie.
Born on August 3, 1967, in Brixton, London, Skin’s music career began in the late 1980s when she joined a punk band called The Decadent Few. In 1994, she formed Skunk Anansie, and the band released their debut album Paranoid & Sunburnt in 1995.
Skin’s powerful vocals, dynamic stage presence, and her distinctive bald-headed look made her stand out in the male-dominated rock music scene. The band went on to release several successful albums throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Stoosh and Post Orgasmic Chill.
In addition to her music career, Skin is also an advocate for LGBT and animal rights. She has spoken out about her own experiences as a bisexual woman and has actively supported organizations such as PETA and the RSPCA.
9. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter who became known as the “Godmother of rock and roll” for her pioneering contributions to the genre in the 1930s and 1940s.
She blended gospel music with rhythm and blues, creating a unique sound that influenced many musicians who followed in her footsteps. Tharpe was also one of the first gospel singers to perform in secular venues, bringing her music to wider audiences.
Her career spanned several decades, and she continued to perform and record until her death in 1973. Tharpe’s impact on the development of rock and roll is widely recognized and celebrated, and she remains an important figure in music history.
10. Zola Taylor
Often described as the rare gem in rock music, Zola Taylor was the founding member of The Platters. Zola began her music career as a solo artist before joining Shirley Gunter & the Queens. In 1954, several members of The Platters were involved in a narcotic sting, reducing the popularity of their records.
The top songs from the musician include “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” “The Great Pretender,” “Only You,” and “Remember When.” As one of the original members of the Platters, Zola Taylor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In addition, Zola has won Independent Spirit Awards for her immersive contribution to rock music.
11. Meshell Ndegeocello
Meshell Ndegeocello is an American singer-songwriter, bassist, and producer, known for her innovative and eclectic approach to music. She has released over ten studio albums, exploring various genres such as rock, soul, funk, jazz, and hip hop. Her music often deals with themes of identity, race, gender, and sexuality, and is characterized by her distinctive voice, intricate basslines, and socially conscious lyrics.
Ndegeocello began her career in the late 1980s, playing bass in various bands in Washington D.C. In 1993, she released her debut album “Plantation Lullabies,” which received critical acclaim and established her as a major force in contemporary R&B.
Since then, she has continued to push boundaries and experiment with different styles, collaborating with a diverse range of artists such as John Mellencamp, Madonna, and Herbie Hancock.
12. Tracy Chapman
The “Fast Car” and “Give Me One Reason” singer is undoubtedly one of the most successful rock artists. Tracy Chapman released her first song one year after signing to Elektra Records.
Her first album, “Tracy Chapman,” became popular among rock music lovers when she performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday concert. Since its release, the album has received six Grammy Awards nominations and won the Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Other popular albums from the Ohio-born rock music star include “Matters of the Heart,” “Telling Stories,” and “Where You Live.”
13. Alexis Brown
The songwriter from Tennessee claims her top spot in the metal scene with her angelic singing. As a kid, she grew up playing the violin, hoping to become a hard rock star one day. However, Alexis Brown believed her music life was limited because of her skin color.
Her brother introduced her to heavy metal music, enabling her to propel her career and expand into metal music. While Straight Line Stitch hasn’t released a hit lately, you’ll still hear Alexis’ songs, especially “Black Veil.” Besides earning the title “The Queen of Rock and Roll,” Alexis Brown has many awards and achievements in her name.
14. Tina Bell
Tina Bell was an American singer who was a pioneer in the Seattle music scene and a founding member of the band Bam Bam. She is often cited as the first black woman to front a punk rock band, and her raw and powerful vocals helped to shape the sound of grunge music.
Bam Bam released a single in 1984, but the band never achieved commercial success and disbanded shortly thereafter. Bell continued to perform and record music throughout her life, but she struggled with addiction and mental health issues. She died in 2012, and her legacy as a groundbreaking and influential musician continues to be celebrated by fans of rock.
15. Betty Davis
Betty Davis is a popular vocalist and producer known for her sex-oriented lyrics. She came into the limelight with her hits “Anti Love Song” and “He Was a Big Freak.” Betty Davis made a name for herself with several singles, including “They Say I’m Different” and “I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up.”
Her hit “They Say I’m Different” about her life in music has been played in numerous film festivals worldwide. The latest song from her collection, “A Little Bit Hot Tonight,” is the first recording she did in 40 years. Betty Davis succumbed to cancer on February 9, 2022.
16. Martha Reeves
Martha Reeves is an American rock singer who is best known as the lead vocalist of the group Martha and the Vandellas. The group had a string of hit singles in the 1960s, including “Dancing in the Street,” “Heat Wave,” and “Nowhere to Run.”
Reeves’ powerful and soulful voice, along with her energetic stage presence, helped to make the group one of the most popular acts of the era. Reeves went on to have a successful solo career and has continued to perform and record music to this day. She has received numerous accolades for her contributions to music, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
17. Shingai Shoniwa
Shingai Elizabeth Maria Shoniwa is a British singer and actress of Zimbabwean origin known for contributing to “Down By The Riverside” and “Don’t Give Up.” Initially, Shingai wanted to be an actress until she joined Lost Vagueness. After her studies at BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, she began singing with a group called Noisettes.
Shingai Shoniwa was first featured on “Raison D’Etre London” in 2002. Shoniwa dances like an African supermodel in all her songs, performing with bare feet and a decorated face. In the album “Songs of Mass Destruction,” Shingai, Madonna, and Celine Dion discuss fighting HIV and AIDS.
She has also been featured in several shows, including Annual Hooetenanny and Chrome Black Gold in 2013. In addition, she is a member of NEXT Model Management in London.
18. Merry Clayton
Merry Clayton is an American singer known for her powerful and soulful voice, which has been featured on countless hit songs over the course of her career. She began singing backup vocals for Ray Charles and Elvis Presley in the 1960s before joining the group The Blossoms.
Clayton went on to become one of the most sought-after session singers in the industry, contributing to recordings by artists such as The Rolling Stones, Carole King, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Her most famous performance is likely her work on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” where her raw and emotional vocals added a haunting quality to the song.
Clayton continues to perform and record music to this day and is widely regarded as one of the greatest backup singers in rock and roll history.
19. Samantha Scarlette
Samantha Scarlette is an American singer, songwriter, and radio personality who has made a name for herself in the world of rock music. She began her career in the early 2010s, releasing several EPs and singles that showcased her unique blend of gothic and industrial rock.
Scarlette has also worked as a radio host, interviewing musicians and other artists on her show “Blackout with Samantha Scarlette.” In addition to her music and radio work, Scarlette is an advocate for mental health awareness and has spoken publicly about her own struggles with depression and anxiety. She continues to perform and create music that reflects her dark and edgy style.
20. Malina Moye
Malina Moye is an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who has made a name for herself as a boundary-pushing musician in the world of rock and roll. She began playing guitar at a young age and was influenced by a wide range of musical styles, including rock, blues, and funk.
Moye released her debut album, “Diamonds & Guitars,” in 2012, which showcased her virtuosic guitar skills and soulful vocals. She has performed with a number of well-known musicians, including Bootsy Collins and Chaka Khan, and has received praise for her electrifying live shows. Moye continues to push the boundaries of what it means to be a rock musician, incorporating elements of funk, soul, and hip-hop into her music.
21. Stephanie Phillips
Stephanie Phillips is an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who has been making waves in the world of rock music. She is the lead vocalist and guitarist for the band The Blondies, which has been hailed for its raw and energetic sound that draws inspiration from punk rock and garage rock.
Phillips has been praised for her dynamic stage presence and powerful vocals, which have drawn comparisons to Joan Jett and Courtney Love. The Blondies have released several EPs and singles, and have been featured on numerous radio shows and podcasts. Phillips continues to tour and create music that reflects her rebellious and unapologetic attitude.
Best Black Female Rock Stars Final Thoughts
Many black female rock singers and rock stars have had impressive careers for over 50 years. Whether you’re searching for legendary icons or new faces, you’ll find them on this list. In addition, most of these singers have won multiple awards, including Grammys. We hope our article on the best African American female rock stars was helpful.