The Top Ten Female Bass Guitar Players
Top 10 Female Bass Players
I got a confession. I have a thing for female bass players. As far as I am concerned there is nothing sexier than a female playing the bass. Along with the hotness factor, a female bassist just adds a certain aesthetic to a band.
Concerning the aesthetic that it adds to a band, there are a number of bands that seem to gravitate towards female bassists. For example, The Smashing Pumpkins have had four different bass players, and they have all been female. Speaking of Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, when he formed his side project Zwan, it also had a female bassist. That female bassist Paz Lenchantin (formerly of A Perfect Circle) currently plays bass for the Pixies. Concerning the Pixies they have had three bass players, and they have all been female. Concerning Pixies original bass player Kim Deal, she joined the band after responding to an advertisement specifically looking for a female bassist. In these instances, having a female bassist has been no accident.
To celebrate my love for female bass players I am going to countdown my top 10 list of female bassists.
Female Bassist Poll
Do you find female bass players sexy?See results without voting
#10: Paz Lenchantin
Paz Lenchatin is currently the bassist for the Pixies. Prior to that her most notable gig was playing bass and providing backing vocals for A Perfect Circle. She was also the bassist for Billy Corgan's side project Zwan and the stoner rock outfit The Entrance Band (formerly known as Entrance).
Along with playing bass, she is an accomplished violinist and has contributed string arrangements for a wide range of musical artists including Jenny Lewis, Melissa Auf der Maur and Queens of The Stone Age.
Paz Lenchantin (The Entrance Band) - Temptation
#9: Este Haim
Este Haim is the bassist for Haim (rhymes with lime), a band made up of a trio of sisters. A relative newcomer, Haim was my favorite musical discovery of 2013. The sisters strike just the right balance between retro and relevance
Along with her considerable musical talents, Este almost deserves a spot on this list sorely based on her hilarious facial contortions while playing the bass. She may have the most epic bass face in all of music.
Haim - Reading + Leeds Festival 2013 Set
#8: Meshell Ndegeocello
After slugging it out for a few years with a number of independent bands, Meshell Ndegeocello made her solo debut with the 1993 album Plantation Lullabies. Ndegeocello is known for her eclectic blend of soul, r&b, jazz, rock and hip hop. She is also considered an influential figure in the development of the neo soul movement.
Her biggest hit was a 1994 cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night", which was a duet with John Mellencamp, where she both sang and played bass. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard hot 100 chart.
Meshell Ndegeocello - Dead End
Carol Kaye - Better Days
#7: Carol Kaye
Carol Kaye is not only a pioneering female bass player, but she holds the distinction of being the most prolific session bassist (that includes male and female) in the history of recorded music. She has played an estimated 10,000 recording sessions over a more than 5 decade long career.
Artists that she has recorded sessions with include The Beach Boys, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, Count Basie, Frank Zappa, Ray Charles along with many others. She went on to release a number of how to play bass instruction books and videos.
Esperanza SpaldingClick thumbnail to view full-size
#6: Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza Spalding has the distinction of being the only jazz musician to win the best new artists Grammy, when she won the award at the 2011 ceremony. It was considered a shocker because she had a lower profile than the other nominees which included Justin Bieber, Drake, Mumford and Sons and Florence and the Machine. That being said, what she lacked in mainstream exposure, she more than makes up for in musical chops. I also really dig how she rocks the Afro. She just has a really cool vibe.
Esperanza Spalding - I Know You Know (Live Nobel Peace Prize Concert)
The Smashing Pumpkins Bass Player Poll
Who is your favorite Smashing Pumpkins bass player?See results without voting
#5: Melissa Auf der Maur
Melissa got her start in 1993 as the bass player for the short lived Canadian alternative rock band Tinker. They released a few singles and opened for The Smashing Pumpkins during a Montreal show. In 1994 Tinker disbanded when Melissa Auf der Maur joined Hole, replacing Kristen Pfaff who tragically died from a drug overdose at the age of 27.
With Hole she appeared on their 1998 album Celebrity Skin. Afterwards she left Hole and ended up joining The Smashing Pumpkins for a brief stint, replacing original Pumpkin bassist D'arcy Wretzky. Courtney Love of Hole and Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins are both known as notoriously difficult people to deal with. That alone should earn Auf der Maur some credit.
After leaving the Pumpkins she has released two solo albums 2004's Auf der Maur and 2010s Out of Our Minds.
Melissa Auf der Maur - Follow the Waves
#4: Tina Weymouth
#4: Tina Weymouth
As the bass player for the Talking Heads she became a key figure in the development of punk and new wave. She was one of the first and most successful modern rock female bass players. This was not only an influence to other females to pick up the bass, but it also encouraged rock bands to consider adding female bass players because of the aesthetic.
Along with her contribution to the Talking Heads she is also known for her work with Tom Tom Club, which she formed with her husband and fellow Talking Heads member Chris Frantz. The Tom Tom Club 1981 hit "Genius of Love" became a frequently sampled tune within the hip hop genre.
Talking Heads - Psycho Killer
Pixies Bassist Poll
Which Pixies bass player do you prefer?See results without voting
#3: Kim Deal
As the bass player and occasional lead singer of the Pixies, Deal went on to play an integral role in the development of the grunge and alternative rock scene which ended up exploding in the 90s. Even though at times she had to take an artistic backseat to the band's leader Black Francis, she did make some key contributions to the band's sound, including writing a few of their songs.
While still with the Pixies, Kim Deal formed The Breeders as an outlet for more creative control. After the Pixies initial break up, she received her commercial break through with the Breeders 1993 album (their 2nd full length) Last Splash. With the Breeders, Kim Deal abandoned the bass, and was the band's lead singer, guitarist, and chief songwriter.
She ended up joining the reunited Pixies back in 2004. She left the Pixies in 2013. She also has the distinction of being involved with two albums that made Kurt Cobain's Top 50 album list, the Pixies 1988 album Surfer Rosa and The Breeders 1990 debut album Pod.
Pixies - Gigantic
Female Bass Player Quiz
#2: Suzi Quatro
Suzi Quatro is widely considered to be the first female bassist to become a mainstream rock star. She was definitely a trailblazer when it came to kicking down doors for other female bass players (and musicians in general).
Back in the 60s she started in the all female garage rock band the Pleasure Seekers, which ended up changing their name to Cradle. They released a couple of singles and Quatro received enough attention that she ended up being signed to the successful UK record label RAK Records. She released her self-titled debut in 1973 which featured the #1 UK hit "Can the Can". She went on to have a successful solo career where she has sold over 50 million albums. She continues to regularly tour and her latest album is 2011's In The Spotlight.
A number of female musicians have cited Quatro has a formidable influence. For example, Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads learned to play bass by listening to Quatro's albums.
Suzi Quatro - Can The Can
The Riot Grrrl Movement
The riort grrrl movement was a 90s underground feminist punk movement. Their music quite often addressed important female related social issues such as rape, domestic abuse and gender equality. Important riot grrrl bands included L7, Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy and Sleater-Kinney.
#1: Kim Gordon
Kim Gordon is the bassist and one of the founding members of influential noise rock band Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth influenced a number of successful grunge and alternate rock acts of the 90s. Most notable was their influence on Nirvana. Sonic Youth are one of the most important rock bands of all time.
Kim Gordon ended up being a key figure in the development of the riot grrrl movement of the 90s. In many ways Gordon became the mother of alternative and underground rock. It would be hard to overstate her considerable influence.
Along with Sonic Youth, Gordon has been involved with a number of other projects, including the all female supergroup Free Kitten and her most recent project Body/Head.
Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot (live)
Even More Female Bass Players
The following list of ten was just a small sampling. There are a number of other female bassists who do their thing. Here is a list of a few more that just barely missed the cut for this list.
Some More Female Bassists
Co-founder of successful indie label Merge Records
Raincoats was one of Kurt Cobain's favorite bands
Super Heroines, Hole, Mazzy Star
Played bass on Hole's 1991 debut album, Pretty on the Inside
The Smahing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt
Also plays drums for the All Girl Summer Fun Band
Now a successful attorney and has competed on the game shows The Chase and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?
My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream
Gang of Four, B-52s
Also was part of Robert Fripp's backing band, The League of Gentlemen
Bags, The Gun Club, Sisters of Mercy, The Damned
Shonen Knife's 1983 album Burning Farm was listed as one of Kurt Cobain's top 50 albums
Black Flag, Dos
The Pandoras, The Muffs, Pixies
The Runaways, The Bangles
Known as Micki Steele during her brief stint with the Runaways
Jeff Beck, Solo
The Waitresses, The B-52s
The Smashing Pumpkins
White Zombie, The Cramps
© 2014 CJ Baker
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