In the last issue, we featured women bassists who have played a prominent role in jazz and funk music. In this issue, we spotlight women bass players who have made names for themselves in the world of rock. Women bassists play a much bigger role in rock than in other musical idioms – and not just because of the proliferation of all-girl bands. In alternative rock in particular, the bass is considered the instrument of choice for women.
Carol Kaye is one of the important electric bass players regardless of gender. Originally a bebop guitarist who began performing 50 years ago, in the early 1960s she started a career as a studio bassist, eventually appearing on over 10,000 sessions including everything from Motown dates to recordings by Mel Torme, Ray Charles, and the Beach Boys. Anyone who has listened to pop music has likely heard her. This is an excerpt from a documentary that features Carol. Many of the tunes featured will be familiar to you; you may be surprised to learn that Carol Kaye is responsible for some of the most recognizable lines in popular music.
Kim Deal has played bass and sung with the alt-rock group, the Pixies, since 1986. Here she is performing “Gigantic” with the Pixies at Lollapalooza in 2005.
Kim Gordon has played bass and guitar and provided vocals in the early alt rock band Sonic Youth since 1981. In this video, the group plays “Silver Rocket” on David Sanborn’s “Night Music” TV show from the 80s.
Gail Ann Dorsey is a top session bassist and vocalist. In addition to having several solo albums, she has performed and recorded with artists such as Bryan Ferry, Dar Williams, Tears for Fears, the Indigo Girls, Jane Siberry, and most notably, David Bowie. This video features her playing and singing “Under Pressure” with David Bowie. (This is the bass line that Vanilla Ice famously stole for his hit, “Ice Ice Baby.”)
Tina Weymouth was a founding member of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, the Talking Heads, and later, the Tom Tom Club. Here she sings and plays a Steinberger bass with the Tom Tom Club at London’s Dominican Theatre in 1988.