Poly Styrene, the lead singer of the pioneering punk band X-Ray Spex, died on Monday after a battle with cancer. She was 53.
Styrene’s glass-shattering vocals made the band’s 1978 album Germ Free Adolescents a punk masterpiece, and the song "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" in particular stands out as one of punk feminism’s original eff yous to the sexism and prejudice that existed not only in mainstream society, but in the burgeoning punk community as well.
While my love for female-based rock music is well-documented and longstanding, even a fangirl like me can easily admit that riot grrrl and the punk scene more generally have long been a largely homogeneous affair, with a lack of racial diversity and inclusion among its iconic musicians and those who loved them. Partially inspired by Black History Month and partially by Beyonce's rendition of Alanis Morissette's classic at the most recent Grammy's (skip to 3:10 in the video), I wanted to showcase some women who defied narrow expectations and produced amazing music.