Rock music has many outputs, but at the same time, it became intrinsically associated with guitars. Well, not for these women. They manage to do the job with powerful voices, lyrical prowess and a set of keys.
Nina Simone’s career developed parallel to the birth of rock tradition, and today she is recognized as an influence by numerous artists. One of the strongest voices of the civil rights movement, her activism went into the music. She wrote several protest songs, and in this rendition of “Mississipi Goddam”, first record on “Nina Simone in Concert” (1964), you can see the anger on her face.
Canadian folk icon Joni Mitchell, in turn, is well placed in the rock n’ roll timeline: she has been called “the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”. Her incredibly rich tales are packed with sounds from jazz to folk, and although she is mainly remembered playing guitar, her influence was also felt for the piano tunes. She didn’t attend the festival, but made “Woodstock”, from “Ladies of the Canyon” (1970), a hymn of the era.
Amos came around in the middle of the nineties’ alternative wave with an unequivocally visceral and feminine piano-driven take on pop rock. She has released 14 albums, expanded her sound and lyrical depth even more and garnered a devoted following. From her 1991 debut “Little Earthquakes”, “Precious Things” is a rarely matched display of emotions from its starting riff.
Apple came around at the end of the alternative wave, strongly enough to get a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single “Criminal”. Since then, her music went from jazzy to indescribably unique – piano and clever lyrics remaining. “Fast As You Can” pointed that direction in her second album, “When the Pawn…” (1999).
Since her breakthrough with duo The Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer jumps from one project to another. In almost all of then, she uses the piano to form a vigorous base for intense and inventive songs of personal confusion. Sometimes this vigor comes in a more straightforward rock style, as in “Girl Anachronism”, from the Dolls’ 2003 self-titled debut.
Bat For Lashes
Natasha Khan’s music is as diverse as it is dark, even when it’s electronic or evokes sensuality. In “Siren Song”, from “Two Suns” (2009), she takes the place of a sweet lover whose “blond curls slice through your heart”, and then shows her “wickedness and sin”. The transformation is felt in the music, and it’s as fascinating as it seems.
Although it became known in the company of her band Evanescence, Amy Lee’s combination of piano and voice is equally potent when isolated. It can be heard in several songs, like the ballad “Lost in Paradise”, from “Evanescence” (2011).
Chan Marshall is an explorer of sounds whose career built up from the nineties to become a fans’ and critics’ favorite in the next century. Her simple songs and smooth voice reveal very personal feelings, as in the hit “The Greatest”, from “The Greatest” (2006).
Kate Bush had a memorable start with the UK Singles number 1 “Wuthering Heights”, written when she was 18. That launched an almost 40 years long career of notoriously eclectic and experimental music and performances. Her piano is a bit drowned in “Love and Anger”, from “The Sensual World” (1989), but the song shows well her mix of styles – besides, it would be too cliché to stick to “Heights”.
Finnish soprano Tarja Turunen entered the world of rock as singer of the metal band Nightwish. But since her departure in 2005, she’s been playing a lot of piano on her solo career, with four albums already released. “Innocence”, from “The Shadow Self” (2016) is an example of Tarja’s piano and metal mix.