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Women Who Rock: In the Pages of Rolling Stone

Janis Joplin, Adele, Joan Jett and more on their inspirations and struggles

Janis Joplin

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"That's the good thing about women, man. Because they sing they fuckin' insides, man. Women to be in the music business give up more than you'd ever know. She's got kids she gave up, any woman gives up home life, an old man, probably, you give up a home and friends, children and friends, you give up an old man and friends, you give up every constant in the world except music. That's the only thing in the world you got, man. So for a woman to sing, she really needs to or wants to. A man can do it as a gig, because he knows he can get laid tonight." (February 17th, 1972)

Patti Smith

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Patti Smith

"People say to me, 'Aren't you afraid of becoming a sex object?' Especially a lot of writers are obsessed with making you feel guilty or upset because you might become a sex object. Well, I find that very exciting." (July 27th, 1978)

Deborah Harry

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Debbie Harry

"I'm against the idea that rock stars have to live a life that's completely understandable or predictable to their audience. There should be a female available for people to have some sort of dream about as a performer, like, 'What is she really like?' Maybe I'll just be the mysterious figure that'll never be able to be truly defined. Maybe that's what my thing is." (December 14th, 1978)

The Go-Gos

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The Go-Go’s

"I think we intimidate guys. They don't know how to take us – they used to think we couldn't be serious, but now that the album's done so well, they're finally beginning to believe that we have been serious all along." (August 5th, 1982)

Madonna

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Madonna

"People have this idea that if you're sexual and beautiful and provocative, then there's nothing else you could possibly offer. People have always had that image about women. And while it might have seemed like I was behaving in a stereotypical way, at the same time, I was also masterminding it. I was in control of everything I was doing, and I think that when people realized that, it confused them. It's not like I was saying, 'Don't pay attention to the clothes – to the lingerie – I'm wearing.' Actually, the fact that I was wearing those clothes was meant to drive home the point that you can be sexy and strong at the same time. In a way, it was necessary to wear the clothes." (September 10th, 1987)

Michelle Shocked

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Michelle Shocked

"They sign a bunch of women, and they call it a movement. I don't like the way women in music have been identified as women first and musicians second." (September 9th, 1989)

Kim Deal

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Kim Deal

"Everyone that works with us – the monitor guy, manager, record company – doesn't talk about how we're girls. The only, only time it comes up is when we do an interview, so you can see the frustration of having to come up with a fuckin' answer. Because there is no fuckin' answer. [The songs are] coming from a person's point of view. Evidently, talking to journalists, we aren't allowed to have a person's thoughts – we're only allowed to have a woman's thoughts." (October 28th, 1993)

Joan Jett

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Joan Jett

"Today women are making sexual statements all over the place: Women bands are taking their tops off and writing slogans on themselves, whatever. When we were playing, there was no support – moral or otherwise. It was us against the world." (March 24th, 1994)

Björk

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Björk

"With Madonna . . . the fact that she made it look good to control your own life when that was something that was not supposed to be very sexy for a woman. She's one of the few women who has remained true to herself and been a character." (November 17th, 1984)

Bonnie Raitt

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Bonnie Raitt

"The fact that I played blues guitar was an unusual thing, so there was this sense of, 'What's a young girl like you doing playing guitar like that?' But at that time, in the Seventies, there were also all these earthy women who were getting record deals – you didn't have to be some gorgeous babe. So it was a good time, and there's been some backsliding since." (November 13th, 1997)

Courtney Love

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Courtney Love

"I always loved pop music and didn't really know why girls didn't participate in it more aggressively. Nobody ever told me the reason for that, because there isn't one." (November 13th, 1997)

Fiona Apple

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Fiona Apple

"There is an advantage to being a woman, because you always have your sexuality to lure people with, and that is also a disadvantage, because if you're luring them, then it is assumed that it is [only] your sexuality that is doing the luring . . . If I were Steven Tyler and I said this world is bullshit, it would've been like, 'Wow, that's so cool.' But look at me, wearing a dress and some lipstick, and if I say that, then that means I'm a bitch." (November 13th, 1997)

Kim Gordon

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Kim Gordon

"The whole do-it-yourself thing took a lot of ideas from feminism. But there are all different levels of it: women who are talking about the male society to girls who just want to have a band." (November 13th, 1997)

Liz Phair

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Liz Phair

"When I first met the people at Capitol Records, a woman who worked their press mentioned that a guy I was going to meet at a radio station liked cute women – and maybe I could change my clothes, and if he pawed me not to worry about it. I was aghast. I felt like someone was trying to fuck me after a handshake." (November 13th, 1997)

Melissa Etheridge

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Melissa Etheridge

"The music business is hard, and it's a business, and as long as you make a product that the people want and your company wants to sell, then you'll be successful, whether you're male or female." (November 13th, 1997)

Natalie Merchant

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Natalie Merchant

"I'm of a generation of women who are post-revolution – post-feminist revolution, post-youth revolution. And I don't take this for granted – I know where the advances came from and who fought for them, and I'm thankful." (November 13th, 1997)

Tori Amos

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Tori Amos

"Women have had to find ways to practice their art – by banging on the door. A lot of times you don't get in the door because you're banging too loudly. You have to find the crack in the wall. Then, instead of banging, somehow you melt yourself like honey and butter, and just run through to the other side. Then you turn yourself into a woman again." (November 13th, 1997)

Britney Spears

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Britney Spears

"At first [being a woman in the music industry] was kind of hard because I don't think people take you as seriously. They make you think that you have to be ballsy. But I think there's a way to balance the two – being who you are and saying how you feel but not going over the top with it. I'm trying to be a little more assertive." (October 31st, 2002)

Carrie Brownstein

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Carrie Brownstein

"I think that women will never be allowed to save rock music, because the hero – the rebel who rises from the ashes to save rock – is always male." (October 31st, 2002)

Jewel

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Jewel

"I think right now it's harder to get played on the air as a girl. I think you have to be young and cute and sexy for MTV to want to play you. Whereas men definitely don't have that problem – they can be fat and hairy. And that's great, but it isn't that way for women. As much as Madonna liberated women in music, I think she also set the standard for sex selling music." (October 31st, 2002)

Lil' Kim

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Lil’ Kim

"Instead of coming out looking like a male to compete with them, I came out looking like a woman and still kicked a lot of they asses. It's like, we had Too Short and we had Snoop coming out, disrespecting the women. Then you had me come out like, 'I'm not having this. I could tell y'all about yourself, too.'" (October 31st, 2002)

Pink

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Pink

"I guess being a woman has been an advantage. You have to work much harder to get the respect you deserve, and you have to command respect and carry yourself in a certain way. But I've been able to be very outspoken and fight the good fight, and I think if I was a man, people might not have been as willing to hear me out." (October 31st, 2002)

Sheryl Crow

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Sheryl Crow

"The first person I can remember wanting to be was Linda Ronstadt. I think it was all about that picture of her in cutoffs and roller skates. That's what I wanted to look like, and who I wanted to be. And I still want to be her. I'm still a massive fan. She's really underrated – when everybody is talking about women in rock, they forget her. She was like a white hippie version of Billie Holiday, just strength and sexuality." (October 31st, 2002)

Christina Aguilera

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Christina Aguilera

"I think when a woman is very confident about how her body looks regardless of society's viewpoint of what a woman's body should look like, it upsets people. I'm unapologetic for the things I do, the things I wear, the things I say. You know it seems like they all want this pretty, perfect little America's sweetheart." (June 26th, 2003)

Missy Elliott

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Missy Elliott

"It's always that door opener, that one woman who really sets it off. Now, we don't want to be the one stand back there with the pack of nails, we want to be the one with the nails, we want to be the one with the nails and the hammer and doing the work for ourselves." (October 30th, 2003)

Lady Gaga

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Lady Gaga

"I don't know when or why you realize that you've become a woman, but I'm a woman. I think different. I feel different. And I care less and less about what people think as the hours go by. I feel very strong." (July 8th, 2010)

adele

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Adele

"Even if I had a really good figure, I don't think I'd get my tits and ass out for no one. I love seeing Lady Gaga's boobs and bum. I love seeing Katy Perry's boobs and bum. Love it. But that's not what my music is about. I don't make music for eyes, I make music for ears." (April 28th, 2011)