Saturday, March 10, 2012

Celebrating Female Vocalists

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of male singers and all male groups that I really, really like.  However, throughout the years I’ve found that most of my go to music, my all time favorites are female singers.  Most of them you have, no doubt, heard of.  Some, however, might be unknown to you.  

Minnie Ripperton
Far and away,  Minnie Ripperton is my favorite singer.  Her vocal range was amazing, spanning five and a half octaves.  On some songs you would swear it was actually a musical instrument and not her voice.  A high school friend introduced me to The Rotary Connection and Minnie was the lead singer.  She came out of retirement in 1973 with the album Perfect Angel, which had a number 1 hit, Lovin’ You.  She had two children, one of whom is Maya Rudolph of SNL fame.  I was fortunate enough to see Minnie perform in person at the Jai Lai Fronton in Casselberry in the 70s.  She was the opening act for England Dan & John Ford Coley.  She lost her life to breast cancer at the age of 32 in 1979.  You can watch Minnie at this link:

Billie Holiday
Another woman whose voice was simply incredible was Billie Holiday.  I only discovered her after seeing the Diana Ross film, Lady Sings the Blues.  I loved the film and the music and I proceeded to buy every Billie Holiday album that I could find.  I have never heard anyone make me feel a song like she does.  I’ve found myself crying while listening to her sing a blues song. Here's Billie singing Strange Fruit:  Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

Once again a film introduced me to nother woman who could transmit true emotions in her music.  The film was Sweet Dreams and the singer was Patsy Cline.  I developed an appreciation for her great gift and incredible music. 

Laura Nyro
My best friend in college, Sandi Whidden, introduced me to Laura Nyro.  Her name may not be familiar to you, but her songs probably are, if you’re 40 or older.  Some of the songs she wrote that became hits for other singers include:  And When I Die, Stoned Soul Picnic, Stoney End, Wedding Bell Blues and  Eli’s Comin’.  Laura died of ovarian cancer at the age of 49. Here's a video of Laura singing Save the Country: Laura Nyro 

Carole King
Few writers and performers have written as many hit songs as Carole King.  She had her first hit at the age of 18 and is still writing and performing today at the age of 70.  Her album, Tapestry, is considered by many as one of the all time greatest albums.  I have worn out both my album and CD of Tapestry…..and need to get a new copy!  Every song on that album is wonderful.   So many of her songs have been number 1 hits for a variety of artists from James Taylor to Aretha Franklin.  That first hit was Will You Love Me Tomorrow, sung by The Shirelles (one of my favorite girl groups growing up). 

Some of my other personal favorite female vocalists and song writers include: Bonnie Raitt, Barbra Streisand, Lesley Gore, Mavis Staples, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Gladys Knight, Karen Carpenter, Janis Joplin, Natalie Mains (of The Dixie Chicks), Roberta Flack and Bette Midler (Boogie, Woogie Bugle Boy originally made famous by The Andrews Sisters – love, love, love them). 

Who are some of your favorites? 

Celebrate Women’s History Month by listening to some great music performed and/or written by women.


  1. What a greyt blog post, Connie! My favorites include some of yours including Patsy Cline & Billy Holiday. Mine? From Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, Janis Joplin and Joan Baez, to Debbie Harry of Blonde , Siouxsie of Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Go-Go's. I was 10 when the Go-Go's came on the scene in the early 80's and I remember what a huge deal on TV a all female band was playing their own instruments! They made history as the first all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts. And they are animal rights activists! They are still one of my fav's today.
    Back then I loved Madonna too, but today she hunts so yuck!

    1. I think my connection to "new" music stopped somewhere in the 70s. Although Joan Baez was in my "era", I wasn't a folk music fan.

      There was an all girl rock band that I loved: Fanny. They only had 2 songs in the Top 40 and then disappeared. Here's a link to Wikipedia about them: Funny thing, sometime last year one of the sisters was on an NPR program & it kindled my interest again. My only copy of one of their albums is on 8 track! Ancient technology.

  2. Oh my! And of course Amy Winehouse!! What a loss!
    I love listening to her cd on a Sunday afternoon, with cats, and a good book :)

  3. This is a great list... I'd never heard Laura Nyro before... she's great!

    I fear I could write a list a mile long on this topic, but here are a few of my favorites... I know I'm off the beaten path a bit, but these are all amazing singers...

    My hand's down favorite is Tish Hinojosa. She has an amazing voice, plus she really captures the whole southwestern thing which is very close to my heart:

    Then of course there is k.d. lang --- I mean talk about an AMAZING voice. I think my favorite song of hers is Full Moon Full of Love, but I couldn't find it. But this is a good one too:

    OK... one more you've never heard of... Eva Cassidy who lost her battle with melanoma at the tender age of 33:

    OK... I lied... one more... Fiona Apple:

    I'm gonna stop now before I really annoy you with all these links. :~)

    1. I love k.d. lang. My personal favorite was her duet with Roy Orbison on Crying. She kicked major ass on that song. I haven't heard of the others, but will check them out. I actually went to to look at Hinjosa's albums and at the bottom of the page they listed other suggestions. Among them was Gillian Welch, who is someone else NPR introduced me to. She has a wonderful voice. Another I'd like to listen to more of is Ani DiFranco - the folks at Skydancing had linked to her on one of their posts. She's an indie/feminist singer/songwriter.

    2. Actually, have you heard of It's an interesting little site where you tell them some songs and artists that you like and then it builds a little personal "radio station" just for you. They have some sort of algorithm that analyzes the characteristics of songs and then finds other songs that it thinks you will like. You get to rate each new song that it plays so it can keep refining it.

      Anyhow, it decided I should like Gillian Welch, and it was totally right. But I had to be careful with Tish and some of the stuff similar to that, because apparently it has some country music aspects which, if you're not careful, will land you in the god-fearing pick-up truck country land of twang pretty darned quickly!

    3. I haven't listened to Pandora in several years. I'm a total NPR junkie. It's either NPR or TV for me. But Pandora is a good idea to listen to music I haven't tried before. Thanks for reminding me.

  4. Thanks ALL for expanding the list. Looking forward to even more suggestions.

  5. Cleo Laine - incomparable

  6. That last anonymour was me - HT. Another great - perhaps the greatest - Edith Piaf.
    or Francoise Hardy -
    or Carla Bruni (lately first lady of France)

    There really are too many to note, I could include Mirielle Mathieu, Miriam Makeba, Janis Joplin, Helen Reddy - too many. Women kick ass big time in the arts. Too bad that hasn't translated to politics.

    1. When you posted Cleo Laine I was transported to my childhood & all the greats who appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. I couldn't remember the name of a husband/wife team I loved. It hit me this morning: Louis Prima & Keely Smith. Here's That Old Black Magic: And I loved Helen Reddy. She's now a Christian speaker. Hmmm - the voice of feminism, back in the day.

      At least in music, women have been given their voices at times. Of course, some are so packaged these days that they are reinforcing the male culture.

    2. HT again. True dat, I'm afraid. I wonder what happens between their rebellious days of youth and their old age of evangelism. Most folks would attribute it to an awakening brought through loss, yet I haven't changed - as a matter of fact I've gotten more strident - bullying my kids about feminism and voting. Who knows. Anyway, loved Louis Prima and Keely. Terrific jazz duo. I adored Louis as King Louie in Disney's jungle book - sublime.

    3. Apparently I was wrong. Helen had converted to Judaism before marrying her 2nd husband. She's an inspirational speaker & suffers from Addison's disease. She's no longer singing. NPR interviewed the author of a book about Louis & Keely about a year ago. You might enjoy this:

  7. Oh, gosh - I think I had every Laura Nyro record available - loved her music, loved her voice, loved her lyrics. Loved Minnie, too - your list is terrific!

    Not sure you know of LadySlipper Music - here's the link:

    About Ladyslipper

    Ladyslipper is a North Carolina non-profit, tax-exempt organization which has been involved in many facets of women's music since 1976. Our basic purpose has consistently been to heighten public awareness of the achievements of women artists and musicians, and to expand the scope and availability of musical and literary recordings by women.

  8. Nyro was amazing as both a vocalist and songwriter. Women's voices seem to have always struck a chord with me.

    Thanks, thanks, thanks for the link. Terrific!