Rock music is often considered a boy’s club.
But throughout history, women have made their mark on the genre and have often been the ones to push the limits of it. At the forefront of many of these moments are Canadian women!
Canadian female rock artists have made waves in the genre.
We decided to put a list together of some of the iconic female rock artists from the Great White North. All these women have, and in some cases continue, to push the limits of music.
We don’t necessarily play all these artists on Rock 95, but there’s no denying the contributions these ladies have made to rock music.
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Canadian Female Rock Artists Who Changed The Face Of The Genre
In no particular order, here’s a list of Canadian female rock artists who have made history.
1. Joni Mitchell
Referred to as “one of the greatest songwriters ever” by Rolling Stone, Joni Mitchell is a true Canadian icon.
Joni Mitchell was born in Alberta but raised in Saskatchewan. She began playing music from an early age, but complications from Polio left her with limited mobility in her hand. So she learned to play the guitar with open tuning, with what she calls “Joni’s weird chords.”
In 2003, Rolling Stone named her the 72nd-greatest guitarist of all time; she was the highest-ranked female on the list.
Her music style was about as diverse as her career. In describing her musical style, she’s known for melding jazz with rock and roll, R&B, classical music, and non-Western beats.
She has won 9 GRAMMY awards and 3 JUNO Awards and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997.
AllMusic has stated, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”.
How’s that for an endorsement?
Watch The Music Video For “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
2. JJ Wilde
JJ Wilde is one of the most successful Canadian Rock artists in a long time.
She released her debut EP Wilde Eyes, Steady Hands in 2019, and her debut single “The Rush” reached number 1 on Canada’s modern rock, active rock, and mainstream rock charts in May 2020 … this is just one of eleven songs to ever accomplish this.
Her follow-up album Ruthless was released in 2020 and went on to win the JUNO Award for Rock Album Of The Year. It’s the first time a female artist has won the award in 25 years … since Alanis Morissette.
This artist from Kitchener is just getting started. It’s going to be exciting to see what’s next for JJ.
Watch The Music Video For “The Rush” by JJ Wilde
3. The Beaches
The Beaches, named for the Toronto neighbourhood they grew up in, have been making a name for themselves since 2011.
They initially formed the band as young teenagers under the name Done With Dolls. They provided the theme song for Family Channel’s teen sitcom Really Me.
After a bit of a band member shuffle in 2013, they rebranded as The Beaches we know today.
This is when they found their guitar-leading rock sound.
Their debut studio album Late Show was released in 2017 and was supported by two singles, “Money” and “T-Shirt”. “T-Shirt” peaked at number one on the Billboard Canada Rock chart and was certified Gold by Music Canada in 2021.
The band won Breakthrough Group of the Year at the 2018 JUNO Awards and received a SOCAN Songwriting Prize nomination for their song “Money”.
If that wasn’t impressive enough … they even opened for the Rolling Stones’ Canadian date for the No Filter Tour.
These are some impressive feats!
Watch the Music Video For “T-Shirt” by The Beaches
4. Sass Jordan
What’s there to say about Sass Jordan, other than … iconic!
From Montreal, it took Sass approximately 2 weeks from the release of her debut album Tell Somebody to explode to fame. “They played the ‘Tell Somebody’ video on Much Music a lot,” said Jordan. “I remember going, in two weeks, from relative obscurity to being recognized as ‘the girl in the video.'”
She won the JUNO Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist in 1989. Since then, she has been nominated three more times and won the Billboard Best Female Rock Vocalist award.
Sass was drawn to a career in music after hearing the Band’s 1969 single “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” on the radio. Growing up, she had only heard classical music in the house, so she described hearing The Band on the radio as a “revelation.”
She has cited Rod Stewart, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, David Bowie, Tears For Fears, Anthrax, and Al Green as among her musical influences.
With appearances as a judge on Canadian Idol and 9 studio albums, Sass solidified her place as a cultural icon in Canadian rock music.
ROCK REWIND: Sass Jordan leads the way for female rock artists …
Watch The Music Video That Made Sass Jordan Famous
5. Alannah Myles
Coming from Toronto, it took Alannah Myles a minute to find her footing in the music industry. She first did some modelling, and acting but music is what really spoke to her.
She and her writing partner Christopher Ward put their money on “Just One Kiss”.
They recorded a demo of the song and made a music video. This resulted in a record deal in 1989 she released her debut single “Love Is”.
Her second single though, is what rocketed her to international fame. “Black Velvet” holds one of the biggest-selling debuts in Canadian history. The song reached number 1 in the US charts, but interestingly, peaked at position 10 here in Canada.
She went on the release 17 other singles to date and 6 studio albums. It’s safe to say Alannah Myles has reached Canadian royalty.
Watch The Music Video For “Black Velvet” By Alannah Myles
6. Bif Naked
Bif Naked was one of Canada’s top-selling artists for over a decade.
She had an interesting journey to music! Born in India, she eventually found herself in Manitoba when she was adopted by her parents. She graduated from John Taylor Collegiate and studied theatre at the University of Winnipeg.
After University, she began pursuing a career as a stand-up comic.
And that’s what lead her to music.
She began playing in several underground bands, Bif Naked independently released a self-titled solo album, Bif Naked in 1994, and I Bificus in 1998.
She’s gone on to release 4 other studio albums.
Watch The Music Video For “I Love Myself Today” by Bif Naked
7. Terra Lightfoot
Terra Lightfoot is a roots/folk/rock artist who is known for her bold vocals, and heavy electric guitar riffs.
Her third studio album New Mistakes earned Lightfoot a nomination for a 2018 JUNO Award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year.
The album’s single “Paradise” also earned producer van Go a 2018 JUNO nomination for Recording Engineer of the Year, as well as a long-list nomination for the 2018 Polaris Music Prize.
Her voice has been compared to Joan Jett and Dusty Springfield. Her electric guitar style has been described as similar to John Fogerty and Van Morrison.
In March 2018 Lightfoot was featured in Guitar Player Magazine along with her SG ‘Veronica’.
Watch “Paradise” From Terra Lightfoot”
8. Alanis Morissette
Do we really need to tell you anything about Alanis?
She’s a National treasure!
After recording and releasing a couple of pop albums in Canada, she moved to California to chase her sound. That’s when she changed history …
In 1995, she released Jagged Little Pill, an alt rock album, which sold more than 33 million copies globally and is her most critically acclaimed work to date.
in 1996, this album earned her a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It was later turned into a rock musical, which also earned 15 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. This album was also listed in the 2003 and 2020 editions of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” Guide.
Morissette won 7 Grammy Awards, 14 JUNO Awards, and 1 Brit Award, and has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and has been dubbed the “Queen of Alt-Rock Angst” by Rolling Stone.
Watch The Music Video For “You Oughta Know” By Alanis Morissette
9. Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne is the queen of punk-rock!
At age 16, Avril Lavigne signed a two-album recording contract with Arista Records.
Her debut studio album, Let Go remains the best-selling album of the 21st century by a Canadian artist. It included the hit singles “Complicated” and “Sk8er Boi”, which gave her the iconic skate-punk persona we all know and love.
She is considered a main influence in the development of punk-rock music for women. She paved the way for female-driven, punk-influenced rock music in the early 2000s.
Avril to date has been nominated for 8 Grammy Awards, and 26 JUNO Awards.
Her single “Girlfriend” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and the music video became the first on YouTube to reach 100 million views.
This Canadian artist has a lot to be proud of!