gender substitution in mainstream music
January 20, 2007 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone think of any bands who have switched a male member for a female member or vice versa?

I'm looking for mainstream bands - that is, bands promoted through major record labels, played on the radio and such - who were traditionally all male and gained a female band member or had a token female member and got rid of her for a male.
posted by frankie_stubbs to Media & Arts (49 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Well, after Ian Curtis died the remaining members of Joy Division formed New Order with new member Gillian Gilbert. Maybe not what you were looking for ...

How about The Human League? After two male members quit (to go and form Heaven 17) they were replaced by Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:14 PM on January 20, 2007

thanks so much! keep 'em coming, though. haha. I'm doing a study in gender bias in the music industry. Im trying to analyze record sales data from before and after "the switch". I'm also looking at press releases to analyze the different wording choices that were used in both instances.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 8:19 PM on January 20, 2007

Sara Lee took over on bass after Dave Allen left Gang of Four.
posted by doublesix at 8:23 PM on January 20, 2007

Definitely check out the Human League then - the contrast between how the band was perceived before and after the switch (and the change in their music) was quite startling.

Fleetwood Mac spring to mind as well - to simplify horribly V 1.0 (exclusively male blues band) versus V 2.0 (two women added, successful MOR).
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:29 PM on January 20, 2007

Scrawl was all women and replaced one with a man. They were on Elektra for a while--don't know if they got much radio play.

Also on Elektra, Luna were all guys and switched to a female bassist late in the game. Again, dunno about radio play.
posted by dobbs at 8:30 PM on January 20, 2007

The Cramps have had a bunch of lineup changes through the years. At one point they had a female bass player. I think they had a male bassist for their last couple of albums, though.

Also, The Fall. The band lineup prectically changes with each album, and several females have served time. Most notably frontman Mark E. Smith's (then) wife, Brix, who many see as the driving force behind the band's more pop-oriented sound (and I believe, better record sales) in the mid-80's.
posted by Kronoss at 8:33 PM on January 20, 2007

any examples for more male dominated genres, like metal? or what about in a female dominated genre like the riotgrrrl movement?
posted by frankie_stubbs at 8:35 PM on January 20, 2007

Weren't the Black-Eyed Peas all male before Fergie showed up?
posted by maryh at 8:44 PM on January 20, 2007

Sneaker Pimps swapped their frontwoman for a frontman on their 2nd album...
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:44 PM on January 20, 2007

A metal example would be Arch Enemy- former male singer was replaced by a female. More info here.
posted by baphomet at 8:47 PM on January 20, 2007

Also regarding Arch Enemy- the Wiki article linked says that the previous male singer was "asked to leave" and then replaced with the new female singer.
posted by baphomet at 8:51 PM on January 20, 2007

Weren't the Black-Eyed Peas all male before Fergie showed up?

posted by oaf at 8:54 PM on January 20, 2007

Le Tigre is an all-female post-riot grrrl electro-punk group. Between their two most recent albums, they dropped one of their female co-founding members in favor of former roadie and new group member JD Samson, a lesbian who visually passes for male, but who openly self-identifies as "herm", i.e. androgynous, rather than outright FTM.

Unfortunately, the group officially broke up four days ago.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:55 PM on January 20, 2007

with the black eyed peas, it would be interesting to analyze the "persona"/ press associated with both females. so thanks for that!
posted by frankie_stubbs at 9:01 PM on January 20, 2007

Shaun Murphy took over fronting the reformed Little Feat after Craig Fuller left in the early nineties.
posted by octothorpe at 9:08 PM on January 20, 2007

I believe one of the early incarnations of Malcolm McLaren's Bow-Wow-Wow featured Boy George as a lead singer.
posted by ktrey at 9:11 PM on January 20, 2007

Also, I believe No Doubt originally was fronted by John Spence, before Gwen Stefani.
posted by ktrey at 9:12 PM on January 20, 2007

Prince -- Drummer:
(male) Bobby Rivkin, then (female) Sheila E, then (male) Michael Bland.

Black Flag -- Bass player:
(male) Chuck Dukowski, then (female) Kira Roessler.

Germs -- Drummer:
(female) Belinda Carlisle, then (male) Don Bolles
posted by Methylviolet at 9:17 PM on January 20, 2007

The Wedding Present, as well as other David Gedge bands such as the Lost Pandas and Cinerama has had many line-ups, involving both genders.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:20 PM on January 20, 2007

Rasputina. I don't know if the Vrenna as drummer on the most popular album counts, since he's not included in the list of bands, it was all electronic, and I don't remember him on tour. It was clearly an 'all ladies' band at first and now has a male cellist.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:21 PM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whoops, count me wrong, not a cellist. However, he's one of only two members at the current time. (I have not kept up with the band, I just remember hearing things.)
posted by cobaltnine at 9:23 PM on January 20, 2007

As far as No Doubt, Gwen Stefani and John Spence were both there from the beginning, though the focus was supposed to be more on him. (Mine was. He was hot like the sun.)
posted by Methylviolet at 9:24 PM on January 20, 2007

The Velvet Underground, of course.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:26 PM on January 20, 2007

spoon's original bass player, andy mcguire, was a chick. now the low end is held down by josh zarbo.
posted by Hat Maui at 9:39 PM on January 20, 2007

The Raincoats started out with a mixed line-up and later became an all-women band.

The Slits had a male drummer (Bruce Smith) for a while.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:40 PM on January 20, 2007

I think Ash started as an all male band, got notice and a hit record, and gained a female member (Charlotte Hatheley). They seem to fit your description pretty well.
posted by mariokrat at 9:45 PM on January 20, 2007

Prince also started with Dez Dickerson who was swapped out for Wendy Melvion
posted by keep it tight at 10:12 PM on January 20, 2007

Cowboy Mouth
posted by jefficator at 11:23 PM on January 20, 2007

Charlotte Hatherley's a good example, because she was picked after an audition. (And she's now left the band.)

Justine Frischmann was in an early (pre record-deal) incarnation of Suede, before breaking up with Brett Anderson and forming Elastica.

Spiritualized lost Kate Radley on keyboards after she split up with Jason Pierce to become Mrs Richard Ashcroft -- or more exactly, she left during the early days of touring Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, their break-up album.
posted by holgate at 11:40 PM on January 20, 2007

I believe one of the early incarnations of Malcolm McLaren's Bow-Wow-Wow featured Boy George as a lead singer.

He only sang at a few live gigs, under the name Lieutenant Lush, and Annabella Lwin was in the band at the time, so no substitution there.

Your study sounds really interesting, frankie_stubbs, will you be posting your findings online when you've done the research?
posted by jack_mo at 1:05 AM on January 21, 2007

Wow, I'm surprised no one mentioned the Beastie Boys. In their early incarnation as a punk band, they had a female drummer.
posted by mullacc at 1:31 AM on January 21, 2007

How about Luna? Britta Phillips replaced bassist Justin Harwood--I'm not sure why. But remember the 80s cartoon Jem? She did the singing voice for the Jem herself!
posted by QueSeraSera at 4:25 AM on January 21, 2007

More Prince bandmembers:

Dez Dickerson on guitar replaced by Wendy Melvoin after 1999.
posted by jaimystery at 5:23 AM on January 21, 2007

It's not really what you're after, but the music and career of Tom Waits shifted considerably after he started collaborating with Kathleen Brennan.
posted by Martin E. at 6:53 AM on January 21, 2007

Charlotte Hatherley joined ash at a later stage. Ash were originally a 3 piece band. I don't think she switched or replaced anyone.

She just, kinda, joined.

Then left.
posted by ReiToei at 6:54 AM on January 21, 2007

Didn't Kate Schellenbach (later of Luscious Jackson) start out in the Beastie Boys?
posted by catesbie at 7:24 AM on January 21, 2007

The new male Rasputina member is a singer and drummer, not a cellist. But if anything, that makes a bigger difference — Melora Creager's ultra-girly voice is such a big part of their original sound that hearing a man harmonizing with her is a bit of a shock.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:26 AM on January 21, 2007

sure, i'll post my findings. it might be a while, though. it would be nice to get some objective feedback.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 9:27 AM on January 21, 2007

There was a woman in Gwar for a couple albums, her name was Slymenstra Hymen and this link seems to indicate that she "was instrumental to the success of Gwar"

There was also the underated 80's speed metal band Snowhite, who gained some success after adding Nicole Lee, a female vocalist and changing their name to Znowhite with an umlaut over that o, but I don't know how to do that. The Metal Maidens website has some good stuff but it's kind of hard to read.
posted by bobobox at 10:32 AM on January 21, 2007

Courtney Love fronted Faith No More for a spell.
posted by macadamiaranch at 10:47 AM on January 21, 2007

Chuck Dukowski stepped down from bass duties in Black Flag, and was replaced by Kira..... I know it's not really mainstream, and the opposite of what you asked, but it's all I can remember, other than The Cramps.......
posted by peewinkle at 10:49 AM on January 21, 2007

The Grateful Dead went through a number of line-up changes, most often at the keyboard spot. In October 1971, Keith and Donna Jean Gochaux both joined -- Keith at the keyboard, Donna Jean singing. Before marrying Keith, Donna Jean had been singing at Muscle Shoals in Alabama and had recorded on albums by Elvis, Aretha and Otis Redding. Her and Keith introduced themselves to Jerry Garcia at one of his solo shoes in San Francisco (she reportedly told Garcia that Keith should play with the Dead; he ended up hiring them both.) They played with the band until 1979. Although Keith's playing was well-liked by fans, Donna was occasionally faulted for bad pitch problems -- worsened/caused by the fact the band didn't give her her own on-stage monitor.
posted by docgonzo at 10:51 AM on January 21, 2007

White Zombie was formed by Rob Zombie and his then girlfriend and bassist, Sean Yseult. The band broke up and they parted ways, Rob Zombie has gone on to direct a movie, be very successful and well known, while Sean has been playing in lots of other cool bands that not too many people are aware of. As of September 2006, she's been playing bass for The Cramps. Regarding The Cramps, the female guitarist, Poison Ivy has always been with them. I don't think she replaced anybody.

Well, these aren't exactly as mainstream as you were looking for, but I can't think of any hugely popular bands that have had a gender switch.
posted by bobobox at 10:54 AM on January 21, 2007

The Comateens started out as a trio with one guy and two girls. Then guitarist Ramona Jan was replaced Oliver North, brother of bassist Nic North.
posted by kimdog at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2007

drive by truckers
posted by magikker at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2007

Walter Carlos (film soundtracks....)...became...Wendy Carlos
posted by filmgeek at 6:43 PM on January 21, 2007

Actually, Prince has had males and females in every role in his bands over the years, including drums & percussion, bass, rhythm guitar, keyboards, horns, and dancing foil.
posted by anildash at 8:58 PM on January 21, 2007

I'm not sure if this answers the query exactly, but it should be interesting to read.

The power metal band Stratovarius briefly hired a woman to sing after the guitarist fired the previous vocalist. This apparently lead to a huge uproar amongst their fanbase. I even heard some sort of rumor that the guitarist was nearly killed by a crazed "fan" in Spain who was angry about the switch.
posted by gaiamark at 3:26 AM on January 22, 2007

thank you to everyone who gave suggestions! you have definitely given me a lot of great ideas. not to mention, saved me a lot of time looking at band histories to find these case examples. I could only think of five bands off the top of my head. So once again, thanks so much. I will be posting my findings in the future.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 10:31 PM on January 27, 2007

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