The bass guitar has been the domain of males for as long as the instrument has been around. In fact, for many years, females who wanted to play the bass guitar have been the target of prejudice and stigma. Many consider the bass either too difficult for women to play or too masculine for the fairer sex. That has not kept women from learning and playing the bass guitar, however. Several women bass guitarists have enjoyed long careers and a certain amount of fame. Bass players such as Tiny Weymouth, Kim Gordon, and D’Arcy Wretzky have held their own in the traditionally male-dominated musical bands.
You have to admit that women bass players are the epitome of cool! Women bass players also have a certain sex appeal. Here are some of the most famous women bass players of all time:
Kim Gordon – Gordon is one of the best female bass guitarists of all time. Her career as a bassist and vocalist has earned her the nickname of Godmother of Alternative Rock. She has sung and played bass for the alternative band Sonic Youth and the band Free Kittens. Gordon was a founding member of Sonic Youth along with Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo.
Sonic Youth’s most popular songs include “Kool Thing,” “Superstar,” “The Diamond Sea,” and “Schizophrenia.” Kim has played the Fender P-Bass, the Fender Jazz Bass, the Gibson EB-3, and Rickenbacker 4003 Bass. Besides Sonic Youth and Free Kitten, Kim Gordon has been part of the band named Harry Crews and has collaborated with a number of other musicians. Gordon has also been a fashion designer, visual artist, actress, video director, record producer, and mother. She is a commendable role model and a pleasure to watch live on stage.
Tina Weymouth – Weymouth is best known as a founding member and bass player for the band Talking Heads. She and her husband, the drummer for Talking Heads, also started the new wave band Tom Tom Club in the early 1980s. As a bass guitarist, Weymouth’s sound has been characterized as having a reggae/funk feel with danceable rifts. She also has been known for combining low notes with higher flourishes in staccato rhythms. Weymouth met her future husband Chris Frantz and David Byrne at the Rhode Island School for Design and formed Talking Heads in 1974.
Some of Talking Head’s more popular songs are “Psycho Killer,” “Take Me to the River,” “Burning Down the House,” “Road to Nowhere,” “Wild Wild Life,” and one of their last hits, “(Nothing But) Flowers.” Talking Heads broke up in 1991, but Weymouth remains one of most famous of women bassists in rock lore. Tina played the Fender Mustang Bass, the Fender Jazz Bass, and the Fender Swinger.
D’Arcy Wretzky – Wretzky is most famous for being original bass player for the band Smashing Pumpkins. She was the band’s bassist for eleven years being parting ways in 1999. Wretzky is also well-known for her love of the Fender Jazz Bass and occasionally played a Fender Precision Bass. Wretzky met Bill Corgan at a local rock club in Chicago and joined the band which consisted then of only Corgan and James Iha.
Wretzky played bass for Smashing Pumpkins on their first five studio albums including the songs, “Farewell and Goodnight,” “Cherub Rock,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Perfect,” “1979,” and “Rhinoceros.” She also contributed vocals to several of Smashing Pumpkin’s songs and co-wrote the song “Daughter.” Wretzky ultimately left the group to pursue an acting career and was replaced by Melissa Auf der Maur. After leaving, Wretzky was arrested for possessing crack cocaine, twice for drunk-driving, and once for letting her animals run loose.
Aimee Mann – Besides being a bass guitar player, Aimee Mann is also a rock singer-songwriter, and guitarist. Mann was born in 1960 and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. Mann is best known for being one of the founding members of the new wave band ‘Til Tuesday but she was also part of a punk band named the Young Snakes which released an album in 1982. The following year she co-founded ‘Til Tuesday with her boyfriend and classmate from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Michael Hausman. Although Mann and Hausman broke up in 1985, Hausman went on to manage her solo career.
‘Til Tuesday released their first album called Voices Carry in the mid-1980s and released two more albums called Welcome Home and Everything’s Different Now. Some of ‘Til Tuesday’s popular singles included “Voices Carry,” “Looking Over My Shoulder,” “R.I.P in Heaven,” “Lucky,” “Coming up Close,” and “What About Love.” The band broke up in 1990 when Mann left to pursue a solo career. Mann has since released several albums and written Grammy Award winning songs. Many of Mann’s songs have appeared on television shows and music soundtracks. Her bass of choice includes the Fender Telecaster.
Juliana Hatfield – Juliana Hatfield is another female bass player who has also moved on to become a singer-songwriter who also plays guitar. She is best known for her vocals and bass playing for the Blake Babies, although she also had a long and successful career as a solo artist. Plus, Hatfield contributed vocals and bass lines for the 1992 album It’s a Shame About Ray from the Lemonheads. Hatfield grew up in the Boston area and attended the Berklee Music College.
There, she met Freda Boner and John Strohm, and the three formed the Blake Babies in 1986. Hatfield eventually earned a degree in songwriting and contributed vocals, bass, and piano to the group. The Blake Babies enjoyed a fair amount of success including songs such as “Out There,” “Nothing Ever Happens,” “Disappear,” and “Look Away.” The group disbanded in 1991 but reunited again briefly in 1999. Hatfield has gone on to release several solo albums, writing and accompanying her songs.