14 Notable Female Rock Drummers
Last week, we rounded up a list of our favorite female rock bassists. We'd like to continue the trend of honoring rock's finest females, by next recognizing 14 notable female rock drummers. As usual, we will focus on the live-performing, touring drummers over time, rather than studio musicians.
14. Ali Koehler: Koehler joined all-girl noise-pop band Vivian Girls in 2008, replacing their original drummer--and fellow noteworthy female drummer--Frankie Rose. Just two years after joining the band, Koehler left Vivian Girls, in order to join Best Coast, the Bethany Cosentino-led pop-rock outfit with which she currently plays.
13. Atsuko Yamano: A former fashion designer, Yamano was the drummer and a founding member of the Japanese garage-punk trio Shonen Knife. She briefly switched from drummer to bassist, before leaving the band in 2006. Kurt Cobain often referred to Shonen Knife as one of his favorite bands, likening his first time seeing them live to "a hysterical 9-year-old girl at a Beatles concert."
12. Dee Plakas: Plakas was the brazen, hard-hitting drummer for all-girl alt-metal band L7 from 1987 until their official break-up in 2001. She is now married to Kirk Canning, the cellist heard on Nirvana's Nevermind.
11. Meg White: The docile, color-coordinated White Stripes drummer makes our list for similar reasons why the Smashing Pumpkins' D'Arcy made our Notable Female Rock Bassists list -- she isn't necessarily chock-full of percussive talent, but her image and style have indisputably shaped the identity of one of our favorite bands. Sometimes, knowing when not to play is just as key as knowing when to play.
10. Sheila E: Also the niece of Alejandro Escovedo, the jazz-influenced drummer had already played with Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, and Diana Ross before teaming up with Prince during his 1984 Purple Rain tour. Later, she played drums in Prince's New Power Generation band. She has since performed with Ringo Starr, and Cyndi Lauper, among others. Earlier this year, she made an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman's "Drum Solo Week."
9. Tobi Vail: The former Bikini Kill drummer is known not only for her hard-hitting, punk-rock drum style, but also for her feminist activism as a prime player among the Riot Grrrl movement in the early '90s. She continues to encourage women to participate in arts and politics as a founder member of Ladyfest -- a volunteer-based music and arts festival for female musicians, artists, and authors.
Samantha Maloney: Flickr/la-underground
8. Samantha Maloney: In 1998, the hard-rocking drummer joined Courtney Love-fronted Hole, replacing the band's former drummer Patty Schemel. After just two years with Hole, Maloney drummed for Motley Crue, Eagles of Death Metal, Peaches, and the Chelsea Girls (alongside the Donnas' Allison Robertson and ex-Nashville Pussy bassist Corey Parks). She now manages an all-girl rock band called Cherri Bomb.
7. Kate Schellenbach: Best known as the drummer for '90s alt-hip-hop band Luscious Jackson, Schellenbach was also the original drummer for the Beastie Boys, playing with them from 1979-1984. Her drumming style is an eclectic mix of punk-rock and hip-hop. Earlier this year, she and her Luscious Jackson bandmates announced their reunion; they are currently writing new material as a group for the first time since 2000.
6. Patty Schemel: An influential drummer on the grunge front, Schemel was the drummer in Hole from 1992-1996, though it is noted she was Kurt Cobain's "second choice" drummer after Dave Grohl, when Nirvana was replacing their former drummer Chad Channing. Since Hole, Schemel has drummed in bands including the Lemonheads, Imperial Teen, and Juliette and the Licks. Nowadays, she operates a dog-walking/daycare business. She is also the subject of this year's documentary Hit So Hard, which tells the "life and near death story" of the rock drummer.
5. Gina Schock: As drummer for the Go-Go's since 1978, Schock is intrinsically notable as a member of the first all-female band to both write and perform their own songs and top the Billboard charts. Her style is spunky power-pop--a method that has carried over into her modern work, as Schock is now a songwriter, having co-written songs for such contemporary pop princesses including Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
The Runaways: Flickr/GalaxyFM
4. Sandy West: The Runaways drummer and band co-founder began learning the drums at age 9, joining the Runaways--the first teenage all-girl hard-rock band--in 1975, at just 16-years-old. Shortly before her 2006 death, West voiced difficulty dealing with the band's demise, their lack of reunion, and her financial struggles. She is remembered as an influential pioneer amongst women drummers.
3. Karen Carpenter: As 50% of the brother-sister soft-rock outfit The Carpenters, Karen Carpenter was a skilled drummer, and one of the few to simultaneously balance lead-vocalist duties. Carpenter first began learning the drums after joining her high school's marching band; her experience with cadence and press-rolls were evident in the her precise drum style.
2. Cindy Blackman: Likely best remembered as the stylish afro-sporting drummer for Lenny Kravitz, Blackman attended Berklee College of Music, finessing her rock and jazz drumming style. She is now the touring drummer for Carlos Santana--she is also his wife. Blackman has previously noted the only distinguishable difference between male and female drummers being women wear "bras and panties and guys don't."
Cindy Blackman: Flickr/Ciro Boro
1. Maureen "Moe" Tucker: The Velvet Underground drummer suited the band perfectly, as her style was as refreshingly unconventional as their music; her appearance was coolly androgynous, and she often played the drums while standing. Stylistically, Tucker rarely used cymbals, and relied heavily on mallets instead of drumsticks, shaping the band's stripped, experimental art-rock sound.
Very Honorable Mentions: Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney), Caroline Corr (The Corrs), Frankie Rose (Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls), Cora Coleman-Dunham
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