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How We Got Here

From firing up the roots of rock ‘n’ roll to laying down the hottest tracks of the 2020’s, women have been an integral part of musical innovation. Music helps mold our lives and shape our culture. These are just a few of the women who we have to thank for that. Plug in your headphones and crank up your speakers—this is a good one.


Sister Rosetta Tharpe with “Didn’t It Rain”

For those of you who don’t know Sister Rosetta Tharpe already, she’s one you’re going to want to add to your musical repertoire. Tharpe was an early proponent of the electric guitar, first playing one in the late ‘30s to enhance her already unique blend of blues, folk, gospel, and swing. Her particular playing style and use of distortion were all but unheard of at the time, but became hugely influential on the movements that would later popularize rock. There’s a reason she’s known as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll,” and that reason is because she basically invented it.

Dolly Parton with “Coat of Many Colors”

If there’s an artist more beloved than Dolly out there, we can’t think of them. She stands up for what she believes in through her music and actions, and is so gosh darn relatable that no matter where people fall on most issues they still adore her. She’s unique, she’s talented, she’s inspirational, and we’re glad she’s here.

Beyonce and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with “***Flawless”

Talk about an absolute boss. Besides being an accomplished businessperson and philanthropist, Beyoncé has completely dominated the music scene (which isn’t news to anyone) since her early days in Destiny’s Child. Her list of accolades is too long to include in its entirety on this Knockmix, but here’s a little taste:

  • Most Grammy nominations of any artist ever
  • Most Grammy wins of any singer ever
  • Most-awarded artist in Video Music Award history
  • Most-awarded and nominated artist in BET Award history
  • Highest-earning Black artist of all time

There’s a reason we call her Queen Bey.

By the way, go check out Adichie’s full TED Talk—it’s well worth a listen.


Sharon Jones with “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?”

If you find yourself wondering if it’s too late to realize your dreams, just look to Sharon Jones for inspiration. She didn’t release her first record until age 40, after years of on-and-off work as a background singer, corrections officer, and armored car guard. Her hard work paid off and she became a soul and funk icon, eventually getting nominated for a Grammy in 2014. If her 20 year career tells us anything, it’s that if you really want something and you keep working towards it, you’ll find your break.


Stevie Nicks with “Edge of Seventeen”

What do you get when you mix a moderately successful British blues band with one of the best singers and songwriters of all time? You get a chart-topping rock outfit that eventually becomes one of the best-selling groups in history. That’s exactly what happened when Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974 and single handedly elevated them to international stardom. Her time with Fleetwood Mac and separate successful solo career earned her the honor of being the first woman inducted twice into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Perhaps more importantly, though, Nicks is one of the most cited inspirations of younger singers today. The sounds we hear on the radio just wouldn’t be the same without her.


Selena with “Si Una Vez”

Before Selena, the Tejano genre was nowhere near the mainstream market. But when she exploded onto the scene in 1984 with Selena y Los Dinos, the music that represented an experience shared by millions of Americans was finally seen by the music industry. Though her life was tragically cut short at age 23, her legacy lives on to this day.


Diana Ross with “I’m Coming Out”

You’ve heard her before. The contrary is simply impossible, even if you’ve never turned on a “Diana Ross” track. Ross was also the lead singer of the Supremes, who became Motown’s most successful group and one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. And even if you haven’t heard them, Ross’s music has been sampled by everyone from Lady Gaga to Biggy,

So trust us—you’ve heard her.


Madonna with “Like A Prayer”

They say you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Well if an omelette equals a million records sold, and an egg equals a controversial topic Madonna doesn’t care about broaching, then she’s made over 300 omelettes and broken her fair share of eggs. Did that make a ton of sense? Maybe not. Just roll with it. What we’re saying is, the Queen of Pop does exactly what she wants, and it tends to work out really really well.


Ms. Lauryn Hill with “Doo Wop (That Thing)”

Look at any list of the best rappers of all time and you’ll see Ms. Lauryn Hill right at the top. Credited by many as a barrier breaker for female rappers, her solo debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of the best-selling records of all time. Go get yourself a copy and you’ll see why.


Lizzo with “Juice”

You can’t turn on the radio these days without hearing a Lizzo track. Okay fine, maybe you don’t turn on the radio at all. But go to any high-energy, positivity-based, full-fun playlist on Spotify and you’re bound to hear Lizzo there too. “Meteoric rise” is almost an understatement for the way her career has gone, and we can’t wait to see where it goes next.


Bonus: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts with “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”

In a perfect world, we all do.


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