10 Women You Probably Didn’t Know Were in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Many of these celebrated female artists didn’t see the commercial success, critical acclaim, or recognition they deserved in their eras.
The Shirelles
The Shirelles / Kaye/GettyImages

Like pretty much any round-up celebrating highly accomplished Americans in our nation’s history, the inductees list for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is heavily male-dominated. And though there are some extraordinary female talents—including Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Janis Joplin, Carly Simon, and more—within that registry of 378 famous inductees, there are so many more talented musicians who have yet to make the cut. 

That said, the inductees list features some women who were extraordinarily talented and accomplished, yet didn’t see the commercial success, critical acclaim, or public reception they deserved in their eras. In fact, many of the female musicians inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame never lived to see the honor—the inductions happened posthumously, 

Below are 10 women inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame who you may not know about, but should definitely listen to. (Thank you, streaming!)

Ma Rainey // Inducted in 1990

Often called the “Mother of the Blues,” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was a major force in American music in the 1920s. Her live performances were legendary and her lyrics often broke ground, sometimes depicting love affairs with other women. Portrayed by Viola Davis in the 2020 biopic Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the titular character has also been featured on stage in August Wilson’s play of the same name. In 1990, she was posthumously inducted by singer Bonnie Raitt.

LaVern Baker // Inducted in 1991

A Chicago native, LaVern Baker was known for her intoxicating fusion of musical styles—including R&B and jazz—all melding to pre-date rock music. She signed as a solo artist with Atlantic Records in the 1950s and created dozens of chart-topping songs, like “I Cried a Tear” and “Tweedle Dee,”  through 1969. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 by Chaka Khan, she was among the earliest solo female artists to be recognized. Just a few years before, in 1987, Aretha Franklin was the first.

Ruth Brown // Inducted in 1993

Ruth Brown was known for a stream of R&B hits popular in the 1950s and was inducted in 1993 by Bonnie Raitt. With five No. 1 chart-topping singles, including “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” and “Teardrops From My Eyes,” Brown enjoyed a lot of success with Atlantic Records. In addition to her music, she was an advocate for musicians’ rights and royalties, and was inducted in 1993 by Bonnie Raitt.

Dinah Washington // Inducted in 1993

A self-proclaimed “Queen of The Blues,” Dinah Washington grew up in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s, singing and playing piano at church. At the age of 15, her career got a jumpstart after she won a talent contest. In the 1940s, she performed jazz, piano, and vocals in clubs, and recorded her own albums; she did collaborations with top musicians like Duke Ellington and Clifford Brown as well. She won her first and only Grammy in 1959 for her song “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes” before passing away suddenly in 1963 at age 39.  In 1993, she was inducted posthumously by singer Natalie Cole.

Doris Kenner-Jackson, Addie “Micki” Harris, Beverly Lee, and Shirley Alston-Reeves of The Shirelles // Inducted in 1996

If you’ve ever hummed along to “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” then you know The Shirelles. This 1960 hit written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King (also a Hall of Famer) became the first-ever No. 1 track on the Billboard charts by an all-girl group. Comprised of Doris Kenner-Jackson, Addie “Micki” Harris, Beverly Lee, and Shirley Alston-Reeves, the quartet originally started performing together in high school. They quickly pivoted from talent shows to nationwide recording talents, before ultimately disbanding in 1982. The Shirelles made it into the 1996 class for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where they were inducted by Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and Marianne Faithfull.

Laura Nyro // Inducted in 2012

Girly pop doesn’t always get its due, and Laura Nyro’s career is no exception. The singer-songwriter recorded several solo albums, but found the most commercial success writing for household names. Nyro sold her song “And When I Die” to Peter, Paul, and Mary and wrote “Stoney End” for Barbra Streisand. Bette Midler paid homage to her in 2012, when she was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Elizabeth Cotten // Inducted in 2022

Born in 1893 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten taught herself banjo and guitar upside down, due to being left-handed. She was forced to quit school and work as a domestic servant at 9 years old, and by 12, had saved enough to purchase her first guitar. By the age of 15, she was married, but she continued to pursue music, leading to the recording of her first album at age 62. She was inducted posthumously in 2022, and recordings of her music can be heard via the Smithsonian Institute

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