While there are and have been so many notable women in rock-and-roll, and we'd like to honor them all, we've chosen the specific starting point of recognizing rock's best female bassists. As a bassist, I looked up to nearly each and every one of these women as I learned the bass and played in sloppy hard-rock bands in high school, drawing inspiration from the strength and talent of these musicians. Nowadays, women in modern rock are far less often considered "token" band members -- rightfully and finally -- thanks, in part, to many of the women on our list, who shattered taboos and stereotypes and established equality via well-played, quality rock and roll.
12. Sandy Miranda (Fucked Up): The newest addition to our favorites list, we discovered Miranda at Free Press Summerfest last summer, and became instant fans. While it was tempting to be reeled in by Fucked Up frontman "Pink Eyes," who commanded attention offstage, swarming the pit while his bandmates carried on, we were just as interested in scoping Miranda, who proved herself a tough, talented hardcore bassist -- with some enviable vintage style, to boot.
11. Jennifer Finch (L7): Finch was the bassist in the all-female metal-punk group L7 for ten years, before quitting in 1995 to pursue other musical projects and photography. She and her L7 bandmates were key players in the push for women's rights in the '90s; the band formed Rock for Choice in 1991, a pro-choice women's rights group that organized concerts and rallied the support of other notable bands of the era like Nirvana.
10. Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, solo): The Canadian bassist debuted on the alt-rock circuit as a stand-in, of sorts; in 1994, she joined Hole after the death of the band's former bassist Kristen Pfaff. In 2000, she left Hole and joined the Smashing Pumpkins for their final tour and farewell show, replacing bassist D'Arcy Wretzky. Since then, Auf der Maur has released two solo efforts, a graphic novel, and an environmentally aware concept film.
9. Gail Greenwood (Belly, L7): In 1993, Greenwood joined Tanya Donelly-fronted Belly, until 1996, when she joined metal-punk group L7, replacing the band's former bassist Jennifer Finch. Greenwood is now active in "anti-sprawl" efforts, promoting the retention of open spaces and land conservation, in opposition to land-monopolizing corporations such as Wal-Mart. (Though I'll always remember her onstage with Belly, wearing Doc Martens short skirts and sporting impressively intimidating biceps.)
8. Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan, The Entrance Band): Perhaps our favorite female bassist stylistically speaking, Lenchantin was a trained violinist before learning the bass. She played in A Perfect Circle before joining Billy Corgan's short-lived pop outfit Zwan, eventually forming psych-rock trio the Entrance Band, in which she currently plays.
7. Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies, the Lemonheads, solo): After earning a degree is songwriting at Berklee College of Music, Hatfield formed Blake Babies in 1986, in which she sang and played bass. After the band broke up in 1991, Hatfield released a string of solo efforts, on which she played guitar, bass, and piano. An expert bassist, she contributed vocals and bass recordings on the Lemonheads' 1992 album It's a Shame About Ray.
6. Aimee Mann ('Til Tuesday, solo): After achieving success with new-wave band 'Til Tuesday in 1983 (which she formed with her then-boyfriend Michael Jausman), Mann made a successful transition into a lasting solo-career; she contributed eight tracks to the Paul Thomas Anderson film Magnolia, including her Grammy-nominated song, "Save Me." More notably known for playing the bass in 'Til Tuesday, she now often trades off between playing both bass and guitar.
5. D'Arcy Wretzky (Smashing Pumpkins): An original member of the Smashing Pumpkins, Wretzky was the band's bassist for eleven years, before parting ways in 1999. Since then, she's been arrested for possession of crack cocaine, arrested (again) on a drunk-driving charge, and was recently ticketed for "failing to control her horses." We were hoping to crack a joke at Wretzky's former bandmate and Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, for his peculiarly evident insistence on replacing D'Arcy with a string of exclusively female look-alike bassists, but sadly, Wretzky seems to be the natural butt of this joke. Nevertheless, she's been missed by Pumpkins fans in Corgan's recent resurrection of the band, and remains one of our favorite female bassists ever.
4. Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads): A founding member of alt-rock innovators Talking Heads, Weymouth was one of the first lauded female bassists of rock and roll, adding her art-rock bass lines to the band's signature funky sound. Weymouth was also a member of Tom Tom Club (with husband and Heads' drummer Chris Frantz). More recently, she contributed backing vocals and percussion for Gorillaz.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
3. Kim Deal (Pixies, The Breeders): Talk about a rock-and-roll resume. An original member of the Pixies, Deal quickly and effectively shattered any lingering stereotypes of women in rock. During a Pixies hiatus (that eventually led to their break-up), Deal, alongside her twin sister Kelley, formed the Breeders, with which she released four albums. She is currently on a reunion tour with the Pixies.
2. Sean Yseult (White Zombie): It takes one very tough chick to thrash alongside metal-man Rob Zombie, but Yseult fit the bill flawlessly, as the bassist in White Zombie for eleven years. She chronicled her time in the band in 2010's I'm in the Band, a book of her White Zombie tour diaries and photos. Yseult now lives between New York and New Orleans, where she co-owns a popular dive-bar called The Saint. She also owns a design company for which she crafts accessories and hand-drawn prints. Basically, she's one the coolest chicks ever.
1. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth): I mean, she's the Godmother of Alternative Rock, for crying out loud. A founding member of Sonic Youth, Gordon defines our every notion of "cool;" in addition to playing bass in one of the best bands ever, she is a mother, established visual artist, clothing-line owner, and, over the years, she's had her creative hands in everything from co-directing the Breeders' "Cannonball" video with Spike Jonze, to appearing in Gus Van Sant's fictionalized Kurt Cobain biopic, Last Days. She's a true renaissance woman, a pleasure to watch rock-out onstage, an admirable role-model, and clearly, our favorite female bassist ever.