Who Are the Toughest Moms in Rock?


While the Sleater-Kinney-shaped hole in our hearts remains gaping, some serious consolation can be found in Corin Tucker’s debut solo album, 1,000 Years. The riot grrrl-turned-righteous mama blends her fierce wail and earth-shattering guitar licks with softer touches of strings and acoustic guitar on her “middle-aged mom record,” an album that she admits is “not a record that a young person would write.” In fact, Tucker’s nine-year-old son and two-year-old daughter come first, traveling with their mom on short tours in support of the record.

As 1,000 Years proves — in tracks like the hard, fast “Doubt” — being a mom doesn’t stop the rock. In fact, lots of ladies have mastered the art of rocking and rearing. After the jump, we celebrate Tucker’s return to music with our list of the toughest rock ‘n roll moms, who balance the two roles without missing a beat.

Patti Smith

A legend in multiple mediums, it only makes sense that Patti Smith would kick some ass as a mother, too. In his 2008 documentary Dream of Life, filmmaker Steven Sebring captured her years as a single mother of sons Jesse and Jackson, moving from Detroit to New York City in the wake of her husband’s (Fred “Sonic” Smith of MC5) death. In this preview for the film, it’s clear that Smith applied her independent vision to maternal issues as well, stating proudly, “As you can see, I was not a mother that used bleach.” Check out a shot of Smith with one of her sons at 1:29.

Gwen Stefani

Ska princess-turned-pop and fashion icon Gwen Stefani may be one of the more creative baby-namers out there, and while sons Zuma and Kingston might seek revenge in their teens, Stefani’s public thoughts on motherhood are pretty refreshing. After giving birth for the second time, she gave an interview stating, “You get more comfortable with looking more like a woman. You’re sleep deprived, but you have this crazy amount of energy because of all those hormones. Now I’m in a repeater zone. I just want to make babies and make records.” We’ll leave the mental visions up to you, but in the meantime, check out this video footage of Gwen in 1991, showing off a DIY fashion design when she was truly “just a girl.” Yeah, we said it.

Kim Gordon

Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon could probably perform in a Snuggie and still be one of the baddest mothers around, so it’s a good thing she passed her genes (and Thurston Moore’s) on to daughter Coco, who was born when Gordon was 36. Of course, what’s the use of being the child of Mama and Papa Indie Rock if you don’t get a good TV cameo? Check out this video of Kim, Thurston, and Coco as troubadors on Gilmore Girls, annoying the heck out of town fusspot Taylor with their crazy, noisy guitar music. If you’re anxious to see them, skip to 6:25.

Kimya Dawson

Freak-folk mama Kimya Dawson admits that it was a pretty natural progression for her to become a mother, and her daughter Panda toured with her and partner Angelo Spencer for the entire duration of her post-Juno kids’ album, Alphabutt. “My family’s house in New York was a day-care centre and I have worked in schools and camps my whole life,” she said in an interview. My whole life has been sort of leading up to that.” Here’s a live clip of Kimya singing her song “Panda Bear”… bet you can’t guess who it’s about.

Exene Cervenka

It’s one thing to be a punk legend and a mother, still another to have your son fathered by Viggo Mortensen, and an entirely different thing altogether to defend motherhood at the hands of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks’ Lydia Lunch. The duo’s 1995 joint effort, the dark and dirge-y Rude Hieroglyphics, resulted in a politicized spoken-word tour, during which Cervenka and Lunch would spar good-naturedly concerning the pros and cons of mommyhood. (Hint: Lunch was anti.) We couldn’t dig up video of the feuding (if you can, let us know!), but here’s a clip of Cervenka playing auntie in an interview about Auntie Christ, her late-’90s punk/country band with Matt Freeman of Rancid.


Yeah, yeah, we know she punched out a photographer on behalf of her son Sindri, and while it may have been an overreaction, 10 points to Björk for fierceness, and as always, originality. Her most recent album, 2007’s Volta, contains two songs written specifically for her children; the thoughtful “My Juvenile” for son Sindri and lullaby “I See Who You Are” for her younger daughter Ísadóra. “You sort of let go too much when they’re 14,” Björk told the New York Times. “And then suddenly when they’re 16, you behave again like they’re 8. And then when they’re 18, you think they can fly across the world on their own. And then when they’re 20, you tell them off because they’re wearing a dirty jacket. It’s clumsy.” Check out this B-side from the 2001 Vespertine sessions, which speaks to one of the holiest mothers out there.

Yoko Ono

She raised Sean Lennon amid the brutal murder of her husband, wrote a song reaching out to her estranged daughter Kyoko, from her first marriage, and here’s another reason she’s one of the most resilient moms out there: Yoko Ono helped found the The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, which asks G8 leaders to fight for the interests of maternal health. Check out this clip of Yoko with Sean at the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this year, doing a rendition of the Beatles’ “Yer Blues.”


You ever get the feeling that M.I.A. doesn’t take “no” for an answer? While her OB-GYN likely had a heart attack, M.I.A. performed at the 2009 Grammy Awards while nine months pregnant. And it turns out that motherhood suited her even more after the fact. “I think having a baby makes me a lot more focused in terms of time,” she told Spinner. “Before, if I had a year to make music, then I know that I have to do it this time in a shorter space of time. And if I got to spend 24 hours in the studio last time and sleep in it and be in it and eat in it and whatever, now I know that that’s not possible because I have to have my baby down there.” ///Y/ (Maya) wasn’t received nearly as well as Kala or Arular, but maybe she’s just getting used to her new creative process. Plus, she’s still one bomb-ass performer. Check out the infamous Grammy clip here.

Liz Phair

We’ll admit it: Liz Phair is capable of really pissing us off. Sure, she announced publicly that she wanted her son with her during the Lilith Fair tour (back in her whitechocolatespaceegg era), which is an adorable paradox for a self-professed bad girl. Sure, it’s hard to stomach the fact that Liz “Fuck and Run” Phair has a new album that’s not only titled Funstyle but also contains questionable rapping. However, this note on her website pretty much bought our respect:

How To Like It. You were never supposed to hear these songs. These songs lost me my management, my record deal and a lot of nights of sleep. Yes, I rapped one of them. I’m as surprised as you are. But here is the thing you need to know about these songs and the ones coming next: These are all me. Love them, or hate them, but don’t mistake them for anything other than an entirely personal, un-tethered-from-the-machine, free for all view of the world, refracted through my own crazy lens. This is my journey. I’ll keep sending you postcards. -Liz

That’s a match and set if we ever heard one. And just because we’re feeling nostalgic, check out some vintage Liz Phair in the clip above.