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Top 100 Female Singers Of The '50s, '60s, And '70s

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)

In the '50s, '60s, and '70s, female solo singers were ever-present on radio, TV and the pop charts -- as they should have been! While gender equality was an elusive dream in many fields, women were well represented in popular music, and the best female singers are legends. 

There were plenty of issues, to be sure. Women were judged on their appearance much more than their male counterparts. And while female singers were prominent, there were almost never any women playing instruments in the band. The music industry, like most occupational fields in history, had its own harmful gender roles, and the gist of it was that women were pretty singers and men were serious musicians.

The artistry of their music tells another story and speaks -- or sings -- for itself. Pop hits, country ballads, punk bangers and jazz standards, the best female singers' work is essential listening.

Aretha Franklin, 1960s.

But there was a lot to celebrate as music evolved from the clean-cut '50s to the free-and-easy '70s. Was there a female Elvis or Bob Dylan? Well, no -- but was there a male Aretha Franklin? Was there a male Joni Mitchell, or a male Stevie Nicks?

The Beatles were arguably the greatest group of the period -- but many would say that their biggest chart rival wasn't the Rolling Stones or the Beach Boys, but the Supremes. 

As musicians began to write their own tunes and lyrics,female songwriters rose to the challenge as well. Carole King, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Loretta Lynn all wrote songs from the heart about love and life, and became commercial successes in the process. 

Debbie Harry, lead singer of Blondie, on the cover of the single sleeve for "Sunday Girl," 1979.

Much progress had been made by the late '70s -- while punk rock was in some ways a throwback to rebellious '50s music and garage rock, this time around there was a place for women that didn't exist before. Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Chryssie Hynde, Siouxsie Sioux -- these women were creating the role of rock and roll frontwoman as they went along. There was no template.

Diana Ross in 1965, photographed by Barrie Wentzell.

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 who forged their own way in the music world and are considered to be among the greats of the '50s, '60s, and '70s.

Petula Clark in the mid-'60s.

If Any Pop Song Instantly Brings Back The '60s, It's Petula Clark's 'Downtown.' 

  • Petula Clark
  • Debbie Harry
  • Minnie Riperton
  • Judy Collins
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Carole King
  • Martha Reeves
  • Patty Duke
  • Skeeter Davis
  • Buffy Sainte-Marie
  • Cass Elliot
  • Diana Ross
  • Patsy Cline
  • Patti Austin
  • Judy Craig

Janis Joplin in 1968.

Janis Showed Dusty Springfield How To Sing Rock 'N Roll.

  • Janis Joplin
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Gladys Knight
  • Tina Turner
  • Linda Ronstadt
  • Joan Baez
  • Peggy Lee
  • Teena Marie
  • Carly Simon
  • Gloria Gaynor
  • Mary Wells

Cher in 1975, photo by Douglas Kirkland.

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

Bette Midler Got Her Start Performing In Gay Bathhouses In New York. Her Piano Player Was Barry Manilow.

  • Bette Midler
  • Barbara Lewis
  • Arlene Smith
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Eartha Kitt
  • Kitty Wells
  • Connie Stevens
  • Doris Day
  • Rosemary Clooney
  • Gogi Grant

Dionne Warwick in 1964

Dionne Warwick's 1964 Single 'Walk On By' Earned Her The First Of Her 15 Grammy Nominations. She Has Won Five Grammys. 

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

Bobbie Gentry

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
  • Patti Smith
  • Siouxsie Sioux
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Georgia Gibbs
  • Nancy Sinatra
  • Dinah Shore
  • Martha Davis
  • Gale Storm
  • Connie Smith
  • Loretta Lynn

Tags: Aretha Franklin | Blondie | Feminism | Karen Carpenter | Music In The 1950s | Music In The 1960s | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | Song Meanings, Lyrics, And Facts | The 1950s | The 1960s | The 1970s | Women

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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".