20 Greatest Female Vocalists (6-10)

In recent years, I've spent much times reading about music and its history. That's why now I come up with this list of 20 greatest female vocalists in the music recording era. Perhaps some people will argue with me over this list, especially since I made it in the form of charts, but I guess it will open doors of lots of new discussion. I, myself, am not a musician or singer of any sort, but truly I am a music lovers. I have set some criteria in judging who should be put into the list:
  • Vocal ability. A good singer is a singer with a technically good vocal. The greatest singers must be the singers with above average vocal ability.
  • Star quality. You cannot be a greatest singer if you are not a star by yourself. You must have the ability that will make people worship you.
  • Legacy. It's about influence, baby. You are measured by the influence you give to other singers.
  • Fame. Even if you have the greatest vocal of all, it would be useless if nobody knows you. That's why I don't put any Asian or Hispanics in this list [not because of racism since I'm an Asian myself) because none of the them are known enough to be able to be called as the greatest vocalists.
Without further ado, let's start the countdown:

10. Barbra Streisand (born 1942)
Nickname: America's First Voice
Genre: Pop
Most Memorable Recording: "The Way We Were"
Followers: Kathie Lee Gifford, Melissa Manchester, Sarah Brightman, Bernadette Peters, Ronna, Steven Brinberg, Victoria Boland, Soluna, Adi Braun, Hayley Westenra, Jennifer Hudson, Three Graces, April Start, and many more.
The statistics of her achievements as a recording sales leader are clearly drawn in platinum and gold. She had achieved sales unequaled by any other female recording artist. With fifty gold albums, she is second in the all-time charts, ahead of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, exceeded only by Elvis. Thus, she is the only artist among the top four all-time gold record sellers who was not part of the rock & roll revolution which has dominated the record business for four decades. Her thirty platinum albums, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, exceeds all other female singers. That organization also noted that she is the only female artist ever to have achieved thirteen multi-platinum albums (including the soundtrack for her motion picture "A Star Is Born"), earning her eight Grammy Awards and Grammy's Lifetime Achievement and Legend Awards in the process. She continues to be the highest-selling female recording artist ever and has had number one albums in each of the last four decades. Her number one albums span a period of nearly 35 years, the greatest longevity in that statistic for any solo recording artist. A recent poll by the Reuters news agency identified her as the favorite female singer of the 20th Century and Frank Sinatra as the favorite male singer. By Her Official Website.
09. Madonna (born 1958)
Nickname: The Queen of Pop
Genre: Pop / Dance
Most Memorable Recording: "Like A Virgin"
Followers: Tila Tequila, Cheri Dennis, Chantal Chamandy, Paris Hilton, MoZella, Miss TK, Miss TK & the Revenge, Aco, Angel, Lisa Bassenge, Becky Baeling, Yohany, Rubyblue, Carly Hennessy, Soluna, Sherlyn, Martin Ricca, Alessandra Rosaldo, Gloria Aura, Christina Milian, Svala, Willa Ford, Amanda, Eden's Crush, Rachel Stevens, Sugababes, Sheryl Skye, Annie, Billie Piper, Arianna, Lene Grawford Nystrøm, Britney Spears, Geri Halliwell, Aqua, Mónica Naranjo, Gina G., Mr. President, Backstreet Boys, All Saints, Jill Cunniff, Laura Miller, Lisa Stansfield, Jana, Mariah Carey, Lucero, Yuri, Selena, Pepsi & Shirley, RuPaul, Sophie B. Hawkins, SWV, Cathy Dennis, Carmen Electra, LaToya Jackson, Elusion, Brenda K. Starr, Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Vanessa Paradis, Louie Louie, Bardeux, Vanessa Williams, Karyn White, Tiffany, Stacey Q, Roxette, Nia Peeples, Pebbles, Milli Vanilli, Miami Sound Machine, Martika, Debbie Gibson, Samantha Fox, Gloria Estefan, Sheena Easton, Taylor Dayne, Jane Child, Ingrid Chavez, C+C Music Factory, Rick Astley, Paula Abdul, and many more.
Madonna is ranked by the Recording Industry Association of America as the "Best Selling Female Rock Artist of the Twentieth Century" and the second top-selling female artist in the United States with 63 million certified albums. According to Guinness World Records, she is the "World’s most successful female recording artist of all time" and the top earning female singer in the world with an estimated net worth of over $400 million, having sold over 200 million albums worldwide.Billboard reported that her 2006 Confessions Tour holds the record for the highest grossing concert tour by a female artist. On March 10, 2008, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. By Wikipedia.
08. Dinah Washington (1924-1963)
Nickname: The Queen of the Blues
Genre: Jazz / Blues
Most Momorable Recording: "What A Difference A Day Make"
Followers: Jane Monheit, Paula West, Lavelle White, Diana Krall, Hanna Richardson, Flora Purim, Spanky Wilson, Dave Van Ronk, Della Reese, Dakota Staton, Diane Schuur, Esther Phillips, Ruth Brown, Aretha Franklin, Maxine Brown, Patti Austin, Nancy Wilson, and many more.
Known as "The Queen" or "Miss D," vocalist Dinah Washington emerged one of the most versatile cross-over artists of the post World War era. Her gospel-trained voice--noted for its rhythmical precision and tonal clarity--performed blues, jazz, and ballads with equal authority. Arnold Shaw, in his book Honkers and Shouters: Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues, stated "She had a flutelike voice, sinuous, caressing, and penetrating. Master of all devices of the blues and gospel shadings--the bent notes, the broken notes, the slides, the anticipations, and the behind-the-beat notes--she handled them with intensity that came from her early church training." Between 1948 and 1961 Washington made over 400 sides with the Mercury label, recordings that reveal her diversity and popular acclaim. Renown for her offstage brashness and erratic behavior, Washington spent these years struggling to maintain a successful music career while overcoming the affects of numerous marriages and sporadic crash dieting. Until her death in 1963 she toured nationally playing nightclubs and large venues such as Las Vegas and Carnegie Hall--a 20-year career that influenced younger singers from Ruth Brown to Nancy Wilson. By John Cohassey.

07. Joni Mitchell (born 1943)
Nickname: Musician's Musician
Genre: Folk / Rock
Most Memorable Recording: "Big Yellow Taxi"
Followers: Colbie Caillat, Oh, Laura, St. Vincent, Elvira Nikolaisen, Brittany Shane, Great Aunt Ida, Swati, The Beauty Room, Dirtie Blonde, Bejole, Alexa Ray Joel, Laura Wolfe, Grace Potter, Sara Bareilles, Kate Voegele, Kama Linden, Tristan Prettyman, Kate Earl, Sonya Kitchell, Holly Brook, Patrick Wolf, Leslie Clemmons, Tina Dico, Katie Melua, Keri Noble, Jane Weaver, Toby Lightman, Chiara Civello, Beam, Charlotte Martin, Jolynn Daniel, John Cody, Northern State, Marc Teamaker, Tift Merritt, Marykate O'Neil, Dana Cunningham, Goats in Trees, Keren Ann, Rosie Thomas, Gemma Hayes, Thea Gilmore, Anny, Norah Jones, Christene LeDoux, Gayle Ackroyd, Casey Stratton, Jim Ramirez, Silver Nightingale, India.Arie, Jenifer Jackson, Sheryl Skye, Wendy McDowell, Audra Kubat, Michele Cummings, Cheryl Cloud, Akire Bubar, Hobotalk, Astrid, Kathy Fleischmann, Patti Witten, Noe Venable, Alice Peacock, Ami Bryant, Mariel, For Stars, Shannon Wright, Gary Jules, Jennifer Knapp, Carmen Consoli, Emily Sparks, Connie Evingson, Pat Cisarano, Alana Davis, Lisa Briggs, Rachel Bissex, Grace Braun, Gabriela, Harrod & Funck, Mary Lou Lord, Danielle Howle, Fiona Apple, Tara Jane O'Neil, Rebecca Martin, Courtney Love, Rachel Goswell, Vanessa Daou, Claire Martin, Page & Plant, Sheila Landis, Mary Catherine Lunsford, Natalie Merchant, Me'Shell NdegéOcello, Larry Klein, Lisa Johnson, Jake, Peter Eldridge, Heidi Berry, Lucy Kaplansky, Emily Bezar, Professor and Maryann, Kirtana, THP Orchestra, Liz Phair, Kate McGarry, Halcyon, disappear fear, Ani DiFranco, George Hamilton IV, Tori Amos, Craig Nuttycombe, Jake Holmes, Sarah McLachlan, Julia Fordham, Victoria Williams, Suzanne Vega, Prince, Melanie, Rickie Lee Jones, Janet Jackson, Indigo Girls, Heart, Shawn Colvin, Marc Cohn, Ashley Cleveland, Tracy Chapman, Jackson Browne, The Blue Nile, 10,000 Maniacs, Jane Siberry, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, and many more.
When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century. Uncompromising and iconoclastic, Mitchell confounded expectations at every turn; restlessly innovative, her music evolved from deeply personal folk stylings into pop, jazz, avant-garde, and even world music, presaging the multicultural experimentation of the 1980s and 1990s by over a decade. Fiercely independent, her work steadfastly resisted the whims of both mainstream audiences and the male-dominated recording industry. While Mitchell's records never sold in the same numbers enjoyed by contemporaries like Carole King, Janis Joplin, or Aretha Franklin, none experimented so recklessly with their artistic identities or so bravely explored territory outside of the accepted confines of pop music, resulting in a creative legacy which paved the way for performers ranging from Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde to Madonna and Courtney Love. by Jason Ankeny
06. Patsy Cline (1932-1963)
Nickname: The First Lady of Country Music
Genre: Country
Most Memorable Recording: "Walkin' After Midnight"
Followers: Loretta Lynn, Shelby Lynne, Lone Justice, Linda Ronstadt, Screaming Sirens, Deborah Allen, LeAnn Rimes, The Wilkinsons, Leigh Nash, The Souvenirs, Christopher Denny, Misty River, Christene LeDoux, Brandi Carlile, Ane Brun, Nicole Atkins, Texas Lightning, Girl in a Coma, Jill Barber, Sarah Asher, and many more.

Patsy Cline enjoyed pop music cross-over success during the era of the Nashville Sound in the early 1960s. Since her death at the age of 30 in a 1963 plane crash at the height of her career, she has been considered one of the most influential, successful, revered and acclaimed female vocalists of the 20th century. Her life and career has been the subject of numerous books, movies, documentaries, articles and stage plays. Cline was best known for her rich tone and emotionally expressive voice, which, along with her role as a mover and shaker in the Country Music industry, has been cited and praised as an inspiration by many vocalists of various music genres. Posthumously she has sold millions of albums over the past 50 years and won countless awards, which has given her an iconic fan status, similar to that of music legends Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. In 2001, she was voted by artists and members of the Country Music industry as #1 of 40 Greatest Women of Country Music of all time and in 1999 she was voted #11 of The 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll of all time by members and artists of the rock industry. According to her 1973 Country Music Hall of Fame plaque: "Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity." Among those hits: "Walkin' After Midnight", "I Fall to Pieces", "She's Got You", "Crazy", and "Sweet Dreams". By Wikipedia.

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Anonymous said…
Okay, your top five are quite good. but the next fifteen are in wrong order. there is no way Maddona can rank above Whitney houston, Barbra Streisand and Mariah Carey. all three artists have had greater influence and better vocals than Maddona. the only thing that Madonna has is sales. ANd that aint the main criteria otherwise ARetha wudnt be number one
Jed Revolutia said…
@ anonymous

I understand what you mean. I, myself, am not a fan of Madonna, and musically speaking, I'd rather spend my time listening to Barbra, Whitney, and Mariah, than to Madonna.

But as I can't ignore the fact the Madonna has changed a lot of things in the music industry. Prior to her, in order to be a singer, you must have a wonderful voice. And then she came, somebody who is not really good in singin but is great in making herself marketable. After that, we all know what happen next, we have Britney Spears and Paris Hilton selling millions of album.

She's the mother of all singers who are better seen than heard. She came along with the MTV which make us judge the singer not only from their voice, but also in their dancing, etc.

If i have to consider quality alone, then I would already put Patty Labelle and Gladys Knight into the list. But in terms of the influence, we can't deny that Madonna has influenced more singers than Barbra, Whitney, and Mariah do.

Don't forget the fact that even Mariah Carey has changed the way she dressed herself. It happened in post-madonna era.

Anonymous said…
Ha Ha whatever. Wot no Janis Joplin!!!!