It’s not unheard of for bands to part ways, leaving some members to test the often rocky solo waters instead. Not all succeed in doing so, but the ones that do usually leave us with a plethora of jams to last a lifetime.
Some of that solo success flourishes so much that we begin to forget that they were ever part of a band at all. And when it comes to girl power, there is certainly no shortage of women who are ready to take their musical career by the purse strings and tear it up on their own from the studio to the stage.
So, in the spirit of women doing it for themselves, here are twelve women who went solo and found success.
Throughout the ‘60s, Diana Ross was known as the leading lady of The Supremes, but by the time the ‘70s hit, Ross was ready to take her career into her own hands. Her debut solo album introduced the world to hits like “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which, of course, become a number one single. Ross would go on to maintain steady success in her solo career during this era. In 1980 she graced us with “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down,” both of which were featured on her fifth solo album, Diana. Ross would continue to make solo albums well into 2006 with her last number one single remaining in the ‘80s thanks to her “Endless Love” collaboration with Lionel Richie.
It’s easy to think that Tina Turner has always been a solo artist, but at the beginning of her career, she thrived in the duo, Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Ike and Tina made music together throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s until Ike’s addiction to cocaine and his physical abuse destroyed the couples’ marriage and their performing career. Tina Turner famously fought for her name during their messy divorce and walked away with little else. It wasn’t until 1984, when Turner released “What’s Love Got To Do with It,” that she was finally able to shake herself completely of Ike Turner and enjoy many years of a successful solo career instead.
She is best known for her work with the Fugees and showing up late to basically every gig she is booked for, but for a snapshot in time, we experienced the best of Lauryn Hill’s solo career. In 1998 Lauryn Hill released the critically acclaimed solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which immediately reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and was awarded 5 Grammys in addition to several other awards that year. And while the success of the album brought Hill to new career heights, she was unhappy with the state of the music industry at the time and decided to take an indefinite break from it all. She has popped up for anniversary tours and festival appearances, but it has become evident that she left her passion back in 1998 with her first and only solo effort.
She is best known for her leading vocals in the popular pop-punk band Paramore, but Hayley Williams is ready to show us her solo chops, too. In January 2020, Williams released the solo track “Simmer” and confirmed the rumours that she was working on her solo debut. Petals of Armor 1 was released as an EP in February with the full-length album Petals of Armor set to release in May of 2020. Fans of Paramore and, more specifically, Williams have welcomed her solo work with open arms, and are now impatiently waiting for what’s left to come from the original pop-punk queen of the 2000s.
When she isn’t busy creating popular indie hits with Metric, Emily Haines can be found making solo music under the moniker Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. Back in 2006, Haines had accumulated songs that didn’t necessarily fit Metric’s style, so she made the decisions to release that specific body of work on her first debut solo effort, Knives Don’t Have Your Back. And although Metric was (and still is) going strong, Haines still dabbles in her solo work from time to time. In 2017 she released her second solo debut Choir of the Mind to moderate success in comparison to the former.
Björk is known for working with a variety of acts, most notably The Sugarcubes, an Icelandic alternative rock band that formed in 1986 and broke up by 1992. She took her unique brand of experimental pop and electronica solo and has spanned a total of nine albums on her own to date. Outside of her solo work, Björk has collaborated with a variety of artists, which has helped her expand her musical genre and tastes across a wide spectrum of work with her name on it. Often receiving praise for her music videos more than the actual songs, it seemed only natural that Björk test out the art of the film as well, making her one of the most versatile and memorable artists of our time.
After making music magic with her Blondie bandmates, Debbie Harry decided to try her hand at a solo career and partnered with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic to make it happen in 1981. She reunited with Blondie for a sixth studio album in 1982, but the band broke up that year, and Harry returned to her solo work again. It was also around this time that she began dipping her toes in the world of acting, which has become a staple in her career along with her array of musical talents. Blondie would come together again in 1997 and continue making music as a band, while Harry continued to give love to her solo career in tandem.
Although she never officially left the Eurhythmics, Annie Lennox went solo in the early ‘90s and blessed us with singles like “Walking on Broken Glass” and “No More I Love You’s.” Six solo albums later and Annie Lennox is still creating and performing under both her solo name and the Eurhythmics, often showing up for benefit and anniversary celebration concerts. In addition to being a strong female force in the music industry, Lennox has shown up as a political and social activist where she has helped bring awareness and raise money for HIV/AIDS that specifically impacts women in Africa.
We can’t take you through a list like this without mentioning Beyoncé. Her rise from girl group status to one of the biggest solo artists of all time happened quickly and with a massive force. One day we were cooing over the matching outfits she and her Destiny’s Child bandmates wore for performances and red carpet events, and next, we were bowing down to her as the newly dubbed queen of everything. Beyoncé has experienced continued success as a solo artist that seems to expand to new heights each time she releases a new album or single, making it safe to say she made the right choice by leaving her former girl band days behind.
In the early 2000s, Jenny Lewis was known as the vintage hippie lead of Rilo Kiley, and that specific aesthetic would follow her long after they disbanded in 2014. Lewis began a solo career with the support of Bright Eyes band member Conor Oberst, who invited her to make a solo album for the record label Team Love, which she did in collaboration with The Watson Twins. She would go on to record three more solo albums with her latest release On the Line in 2019. She just finished a solo tour that saw her perform at The Danforth Music Hall last October, and now she is set to the hit the stage again when she opens for Harry Styles on his 2020 tour.
Known all over the world as one of the best female rock stars, Joan Jett first began her musical career as the founder and lead guitarist for The Runaways. After the band cut ties near the end of the ‘70s, Joan Jett found herself rejected by 23 record labels, forcing her to become the first female recording artist to form her own label, Blackheart Records. Jett would go on to create a string of hits as Joan Jett & The Blackhearts including “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” “Bad Reputation,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” and “Crimson and Clover.” She still performs solo and joins Poison and Def Leppard on the Mötley Crüe tour for summer 2020.
She may be known as one of the best-selling music acts of all time with Fleetwood Mac, but that doesn’t mean Stevie Nicks hasn’t enjoyed a fruitful career as a solo artist as well. In 1981, Nicks remained an active member of Fleetwood Mac while debuting her first solo album, Bell Donna, which has reached multiplatinum status. Since then, Nicks has released eight solo albums in total and is the only woman who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist.