Women and music go hand in hand, with women having contributed so much to music over the years and shaping the industry into what it is today. In honour of International Women’s Day, we have compiled a list of the greatest female legends of the music industry.
Referred to as the Queen of Rock and Roll, Stevie Nicks is one of the best selling music artists of all time. She is renowned for her work as a member of Fleetwood Mac as well as her incredible solo career. Nicks’ mystical style and bewitching on-stage persona has enchanted generations of artists to follow.
Kate Bush first achieved fame at the age of 19 with her number one debut single, ‘Wuthering Heights’. She has gone on to achieve mass critical acclaim with 3 UK number one albums, and in 2013 was made a CBE for services to music.
During the 90s Lauryn Hill took the hip hop world by storm. As a member of The Fugees, she experimented with elements of hip hop, soul and reggae. In 1998 Hill made her solo debut with ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’. A neo-soul work of art, this album’s cutting rhythms and sharp commentary on life and relationships through the eyes of a woman has immortalised Hill as a musical legend.
Best known as the frontwoman of the new wave band Blondie, Debbie Harry is a punk icon. She has released five successful solo albums throughout her career, and is still performing today at the age of 72.
Known as “The First Lady of Song”, Ella Fitzgerald remains the most popular female jazz singer decades after her death. Fitzgerald is adored for her wide vocal range, flawless tone and ability to improvise scat singing and imitate any orchestral instrument, giving her enduring admiration world-wide.
The multimillion selling artist, Donna Summer, epitomised the vibrant disco era of the 70s with her groundbreaking blend of soul, pop, funk and disco, and her avant-garde, feisty performances. It’s impossible to think of disco without Donna Summer coming to mind.
Legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday evolved a new revolutionary way of controlling phrasing and tempo within her music, and was known to deliver performances imbued with powerful emotion. Holiday’s 1939 song, ‘Strange Fruit’ about the troubling, racially-fuelled lynchings in America is viewed as the first great protest song and still stuns and chills audiences to this day.
Aretha Franklin redefined soul and jazz forever with her run of globally successful hits in the 60s, catapulting her into superstardom and earning her the title of the Queen of Soul. Franklin was the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She also became a voice for women’s rights and the civil rights movement.
Patti Smith made her breakthrough in the mid 70s within the New York punk rock movement. She is known for infusing music with poetry and holds a place on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘100 Greatest Artists’.
Dusty Springfield stands as one of the biggest icons of the Swinging Sixties. She graced the music industry with her extraordinary talent in Pop and blue-eyed soul, and her unique and sensual voice, earning her an outstanding career spanning over 40 years.
Despite only releasing two studio albums in her lifetime, Amy Winehouse is world-renowned for her astonishing singing and songwriting within an extensive mix of musical genres, including neo soul, jazz and rhythm and blues. Her 2006 album Back to Black posthumously became the UK’s best selling album of the 21st century, and after hearing this album’s sombre rhythms and profoundly personal lyrics it is clear to see why.
Rock ‘n’ roll goddess Janis Joplin defined an era when she made her musical break-through in the late 1960s, and continued to mesmerise music fans everywhere with three critically acclaimed albums up until her death in 1970. Joplin is famous for her powerfully raw voice, admirably brassy attitude and hippy aesthetic, all of which have rendered her an unforgettable musical icon.
Rolling Stone have dubbed Joni Mitchell as ‘one of the greatest songwriters ever’. With roots in pop, folk, rock and jazz, Mitchell has created a distinctive style that has inspired countless others. Her songs often comment on social issues and express her feelings on romance, humanity and happiness, giving her music timeless endurance.
Whitney Houston is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time and the most awarded female act of all time. Her emotive, powerful voice is recognisable anywhere and she has sung on some of the greatest and most iconic love songs ever made, influencing innumerable women after her.