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.
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:
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.
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
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.