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Celebrate International Women's Day with these axe-slinging heroes

Joni Mitchell (by Central Press/Getty Images), Lianne La (by Hollie Fernando), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
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Joni Mitchell (by Central Press/Getty Images), Lianne La (by Hollie Fernando), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

When you Google "greatest guitarists of all time," the search results will likely include names likeJimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen or Jimmy Page. All great guitarists, but where are all the women? Axe-slinging heroes like Joan Armatrading, Susan Tedeschi or Joan Jett.

World Cafe has put together a playlist to celebrate some of the greatest guitarists of all time that also happen to be women. Guitarists like Lianne La Havas, who initially rejected the instrument as a kid because she didn't see any guitar-playing role models who looked like her. But Lianne pushed passed that to become that very role model. There's also Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who inspired artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Little Richard. There's St. Vincent, who designed the very first guitar for women's bodies — the instrument is more lightweight, and it makes room for breasts.

Of course, there's Joni Mitchell, an artist who is known not only as a wildly creative songwriter, but also a wildly creative guitar player. Over her career, Mitchell has experimented with many strange and interesting guitar tunings. Some are so unique that people call them "Joni Tunings." Joni's catalog is no longer available on Spotify, so you won't find her on this playlist. Instead, enjoy the clip above of Mitchell and Bob Dylan taken from Martin Scorsese's film Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Raina Douris
Raina Douris, an award-winning radio personality from Toronto, Ontario, is the host and writer of NPR's daily nationally-syndicated music interview and discovery program World Cafe. She has interviewed artists like Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Questlove and Brandi Carlile, and was a 2022 keynote lecturer on the topic of Folk Music and music discovery at the Chautauqua Institution.
Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.