The 50 Most Important Queer Women in Music


19 Leisha Hailey

Before she was known for her role on The L Word, Leisha was part of The Murmurs, a 90s rock duo that gained so much popularity in NYC, they were swiftly signed to MCA Records. They recorded four albums over a seven-year period, and became an underground hit at a time when women in alternative and indie rock were slowly making their way into mainstream consciousness. Since then, Hailey has formed Uh Huh Her, which has released one album and had a song featured on the soundtrack for The Kids Are All Right. Hailey has also written a song for Shakira, and is working with bandmate Camila Grey on their new CD.

18 Janis Ian

In 1975, Janis Ian won a Grammy for her song “At Seventeen.” It was a huge hit, and Janis performed the song on Saturday Night Live‘s season premiere that same year. Though she didn’t come out as a lesbian until 1993, her songs were frequently about social injustice, interracial dating and societal violence. In 2009, she released a collection of her greatest hits along with her memoir, Society’s Child.

17 Ani Difranco

As one of the most prolific folk-rock musicians of the last 20 years, Ani Difranco has been a bisexual icon since she debuted her self-released, eponymous album in 1990. With songs about loving other women and featuring other out women on her tours and record label, Righteous Babe Records, Ani has been a steadfast advocate for women’s rights and gay equality.

16 Kaia Wilson

When the out musician created Mr. Lady Records in 1996, Kaia Wilson created a way for queer bands like Le Tigre and Electrelane, as well as her own band The Butchies, to be found in your local record store. Kaia was also a founding member of Team Dresch, one of the first bands on the queercore scene that presented lesbian politics in its lyrics and images. While both of her bands have since split, the Butchies had a recent reunion and Kaia continues to record solo work and perform with Amy Ray as part of her band.

15 Sharon Isbin

Juilliard graduate, Sharon Isbin, is a master of the classical guitar. Besides recording her own albums, she’s done important work: founding the guitar department at her world famous alma mater, and performing at Ground Zero a year after the attacks on the World Trade Center. She also participated in the Academy and Grammy Award-winning score for The Departed. Last year, Isbin’s album Journey to the New World won the Grammy for for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance.

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