Culture | January 30, 2018

Circa 1955: American singer and actor Rosemary Clooney (1928 - 2002) sings and dances in a ballroom or on a stage, accompanied by a pianist and a band. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The 50s and 60s were no different than any other era in the U.S. in that music was culturally relevant. That being said, it is important to note many female vocalists and songwriters have made significant contributions to all genres of music including Rock “n” Roll, Pop, Country, R & B, Jazz and Soul.

My purpose is not to belabor the concept of it being a man’s world, but the fact remains that female artists were not always taken as seriously as their male counterparts. Over the years, while women did enjoy the spotlight, they had been largely, initially, judged on their physical appearance more so than their musical ability. There was always pressure to exude a certain amount of sex appeal to catch the attention of audiences. It was much easier for a woman’s talent to shine through if she was easy on the eyes.

Women’s roles in music have included everything from songwriters, lead guitarists and performers to conductors, producers and vocalists. The vocalist, however, is quite possibly the most powerful, sought after role of the female artist. Being the “face” that goes with the song, is the most notable and visual position on stage. Not to discount the many successful “girl bands” over the years, but the female solo vocalists often garner the bulk of the attention.

Janis showed Dusty Springfield how to sing rock and roll.

Often you will find female vocalists are known for singing about love and feminist issues. That isn’t to say that they have nothing else to offer. It is just a tremendous platform to get “the word” out on similar topics.

Below is a list (in no particular order) of popular and talented female Rock “n” Roll, Pop, Country, R & B, Jazz and Soul music solo artists that forged their own way in the music world and were/are considered to be among the “greats” of the 1950s and 1960s.

  • LaVern Baker
  • Connie Francis
  • Brenda Lee
  • Dinah Washington
  • Della Reese
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Etta James
  • Karen Carpenter
  • Dusty Springfield
  • Janis Joplin
  • Patti Labelle
  • Grace Slick
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Gladys Knight
  • Tina Turner
  • Linda Ronstadt
  • Joan Baez
  • Roberta Flack
  • Stevie Nicks
  • Donna Summer

If any pop song instantly brings back the 1960s, it's Petula Clark's "Downtown". 

  • Petula Clark
  • Debbie Harry
  • Minnie Riperton
  • Judy Collins
  • Bette Midler
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Carole King
  • Martha Reeves
  • Patty Duke
  • Skeeter Davis
  • Cass Elliot
  • Diana Ross
  • Patsy Cline
  • Peggy Lee
  • Mary Wells
  • Gloria Gaynor
  • Carly Simon
  • Teena Marie
  • Patti Austin
  • Judy Craig

Cher is 71-years-old and STILL rocking it! 

  • Cher
  • Ronnie Spector
  • Shelley Fabares
  • Olivia Newton John
  • Dee Dee Sharp
  • Melba Moore
  • Denise LaSalle
  • Erma Franklin
  • Doris Troy
  • Dodie Stevens
  • Brenda Holloway
  • Barbara Lewis
  • Arlene Smith
  • Barbara Streisand
  • Eartha Kitt
  • Kitty Wells
  • Connie Stevens
  • Doris Day
  • Rosemary Clooney
  • Gogi Grant

  • Dionne Warwick
  • Maxine Brown
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Shirley Alston
  • Christine McVie
  • Ketty Lester
  • Lesley Gore
  • Sarah Vaughan
  • Barbara Lynn
  • Mary Wilson
  • Billie Holiday
  • Kay Starr
  • Mahalia Jackson
  • Lena Horn
  • Judy Garland
  • Millie Jackson
  • Ruth Brown
  • Etta Jones
  • Jan Howard

Bobbie Gentry, singer and songwriter, is one of the first female country artists to compose and produce her own material.

  • Bobbie Gentry
  • Patti Page
  • Jo Stafford
  • Teresa Brewer
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Georgia Gibbs
  • Nancy Sinatra
  • Dinah Shore
  • Martha Davis
  • Gale Storm
  • Connie Smith
  • Loretta Lynn

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Lyra Radford


Lyra spends her days exploring all shades of history. In her writing, she covers topics ranging from the 'groovy' to the downright strange. She enjoys books, movies, and strong coffee. She also fancies herself the world's greatest air hockey player. She learned the ins and outs of writing and producing film/television at Palm Beach State and The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. She is currently enrolled at Arizona State University studying psychology and writing. Her work has been featured by some of the most prolific sites on the web and she is the author of the travel guide "Two-Days Exploring Haunted Key West".