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March 14, 2016

27 of The Most Influential and Pioneering Women in Music History

Women in music describes the role of women as composers, songwriters, instrumental performers, singers, conductors, music scholars, music educators, music critics/music journalists and other musical professions. As well, it describes music movements, events and genres related to women, women's issues and feminism.

In the 2010s, while women comprise a significant proportion of popular music and classical music singers, and a significant proportion of songwriters (many of them being singer-songwriters), there are few women record producers, rock critics and rock instrumentalists.

Here, below is s a list of some of the most important female artists in music history:

1. Ma Rainey

Ma Rainey was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing. She was one of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. She was billed as 'The Mother of the Blues'.

2. Bessie Smith

Nicknamed 'The Empress of the Blues', Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists.

3. Billie Holiday

In spite of having no formal musical training, 'Lady Day' became possibly the most influential jazz singer ever thanks to her pioneering phrasing and tempo. Frank Sinatra says she was his biggest influence.

4. Ella Fitzgerald

The ‘First Lady of Song’ achieved an incredible amount during her career (including 14 Grammy awards) and was famed for her amazing vocal range and ability to improvise.

5. Patsy Cline

Female country music singers might be the norm now, but that wasn’t so until Patsy Cline came along and changed the game, eventually becoming the first female artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She sadly died aged just 30 in a plane crash.

6. Janis Martin

Known as the 'Female Elvis' for her dance moves on stage, similar to those of Elvis Presley, Janis Martin was a pioneer rockabilly star. She was one of the few women working in the male-dominated rock and roll music field during the 1950s and one of country music's early female innovators.

7. Nina Simone

An all-round musical genius who recorded the definitive versions of classics like "My Baby Just Cares For Me" and "Feeling Good", Simone also fought fiercely for civil rights in the 1960s and sung and spoke on the famous Selma to Montgomery marches.

8. The Shirelles

The foursome were the first African American girl group to hit number 1 in the US with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", paving the way for all the incredible girl groups of the 60s.

9. Tina Turner

One of the great survivors in music, with a career spanning more than 50 years, Tina first found success with Ike before breaking away from him and going on to even bigger things in the 80s as a solo artist.

10. Diana Ross

Named ‘Female Entertainer of the 20th Century’ by Billboard, Ross scored 70 hit singles as a member of one of the great girl groups, The Supremes, and as a solo artist. Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Beyonce have all paid credit to her influence.

11. Carole King

King is possibly the most successful female songwriter ever, penning "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" amongst over two dozen hits. King was also the first ever women to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2013.

12. Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul achieved huge success with the feminist anthem ‘Respect’ in the mid-sixties and went on to become the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She was named the greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

13. Dusty Springfield

Born in north London, Dusty became one of the most recognisable soul singers and one of the most successful British artists in America during the 60s. She’s also credited with helping to spread soul music in the UK in the 60s thanks to her TV showcase of American soul artists.

14. Cher

Having first found success as a duo with Sonny Bono in the 60s, Cher went on to enjoy incredible solo success and a great acting career. Her ability to constantly reinvent her image helped her to become the only artist to have a number 1 hit in every decade since the 60s.

15. Joni Mitchell

Mitchell’s success across rock, folk, pop and jazz has led some to call her the most “influential recording artist of the late 20th century.” Along with classic songs like ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, her 1971 album ‘Blue’ remains one of the best albums ever according to many polls.

16. Connie Francis

In 1958, Cashbox and Billboard named Connie Francis as the #1 Female Vocalist. She was named Top Female Vocalist by all the trades for six consecutive years – a record never surpassed. Although her chart success waned in the second half of the 1960s, Francis remained a top concert draw. Despite several severe interruptions in her career, she is still active as a recording and performing artist.

17. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin brought her powerful, bluesy voice from Texas to San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, where she went from drifter to superstar. She has been called “the greatest white urban blues and soul singer of her generation.” Joplin’s vocal intensity proved a perfect match for the high-energy music of Big Brother and the Holding Company, resulting in a mix of blues, folk and psychedelic rock. Joplin’s tenure with Big Brother may have been brief, lasting only from 1966 to 1968, but it yielded a pair of albums that included the milestone Cheap Thrills. Moreover, her performance with Big Brother at 1967’s Monterey International Pop Festival, a highlight of the film documentary Monterey Pop, is among the great performances in rock history.

18. Patti Smith

In 1975, rock and roll caught a glimpse of what lay ahead when Patti Smith—a bohemian New York poet and punk-rock artiste—released her debut album, Horses. Its inspired garage-band amateurism flew in the face of increasingly slick rock production values. Smith’s lyrics were street poetry that nodded toward Beat Generation and French symbolist poets, as well as literate rockers like Jim Morrison and Lou Reed.

19. Debbie Harry

Perhaps the most famous women in the new wave and punk movements of the seventies and eighties, Harry presented an irresistible blend of glamour, power, confidence and independence. Harry also enjoyed success in the 90’s and early 2000’s, embracing electronic music.

20. Donna Summer

While influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s, she Summer the front singer of a psychedelic rock band named Crow and moved to New York City. She gained prominence during the disco era of the late-1970s. A five-time Grammy Award winner, she was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach No. 1 on the United States Billboard album chart and charted four number-one singles in the U.S. within a 12-month period. Summer has reportedly sold over 140 million records, making her one of the world's best-selling artists of all time.

21. Annie Lennox

The most successful ever female artist at the Brit awards, Lenox first found success in the 70s with The Tourists before going on to even greater things with the Eurythmics, selling 80m records worldwide. Aside from her amazing music career, she has also campaigned for women’s rights and HIV awareness.

22. Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt has been involved in so many different genres of music. She has earned 11 Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award, and numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums. She has also earned nominations for a Tony Award and a Golden Globe award. Ronstadt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2014.

23. Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar's strong vocals and rock sound, as well as hits like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Love Is A Battlefield," made her an early MTV star in the 1980s. She was the first female artist to play on MTV, performing "You Better Run."

24. Madonna

An artist who transcends music, Madonna was possibly the most famous female entertainer in the world in the 80s and 90s, selling hundreds of millions of records and forging a great career in film too. She's still one of the top female musicians today.

25. Whitney Houston

One of the greatest vocalists of the 20th Century, Whitney was also one of the most successful, selling around 180m records. She was also the first black woman to have her videos played regularly on MTV. She sadly passed away in 2012, but her legacy continues to inspire artists today.

26. Beyonce

One of the defining entertainers of the 21st Century, Beyonce has enjoyed huge success with Destiny’s Child and even more as a solo artist. With her messages of female empowerment, Beyonce’s influence has gone beyond music and she has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

27. Adele

While her career is still relatively young, Adele has made a huge impact in that time and is already estimated to have sold more than 100m records worldwide. The singer from north London is also celebrated for her down to earth persona providing a more ‘realistic’ role model for young women.

(via Smooth Radio)



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