100 Greatest Women in Music – the Past 50 Years

(Originally posted March 30, 2016.)

Throughout modern history, women have made significant contributions to music in every genre, be it R&B, pop, rock, country, disco, rap/hip-hop, gospel, opera, electronic, reggae, funk…you name it.

With March being Women’s History Month, what better time is there than now to shine the spotlight on those who’ve had the most impact in music over the years.

With that in mind, I’ve created the countdown of countdowns, the 100 Greatest Women in Music for the Past 50 Years.

This special djroblist is one for the ages.  It is about as diverse a list as you’ll see of this type (believe me, I scoured the Internet to back up that claim).  Women from many generations and various genres are represented here.

As with nearly every Internet list, there are a few caveats I must cover.

First, this is a secular music list.  So the many artists who are exclusively gospel or Christian musicians are not represented here.  That’s not to say their contributions over the past five decades haven’t been notable – quite the contrary.  Groundbreaking artists like Tramaine Hawkins, Shirley Caesar, Yolanda Adams, CeCe Winans, Albertina Walker and, of course, Mahalia Jackson certainly deserve praise for all they’ve done for gospel and to inspire others.

But, in the final analysis, the playing field was an uneven one for gospel singers.  Over the years and even still today, many of the metrics that benefit mainstream musicians (like massive sales, widespread exposure through radio airplay, video channels and streaming) place gospel artists at a comparative disadvantage.

Also, this list is a tribute to individual accomplishments, so you won’t see any groups like TLC, Dixie Chicks, En Vogue, Salt-n-Pepa, Destiny’s Child, Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge or the Supremes listed.

However, their members may be listed if they had noteworthy or significant roles in the group’s success or if they also had qualifying solo success (e.g., Diana Ross, Stevie Nicks, Beyoncé).

So how did I create this ranking?

I used some of the standard metrics, like chart positions, record sales, or numbers of hits…along with career longevity.

Also, more subjective factors like innovation, creativity and artistry came into play.  Artists who’ve been recognized by credible music industry authorities (like Billboard or Rolling Stone magazines, or various halls of fame), awards committees (like the Grammys, BET) and music critics likely fared better than others, even if their sales and overall popularity would suggest otherwise.

Also, the list gives more credence to an artist’s prime years, with little or no detraction for the inevitable decline that occurs.  Obviously, singers whose prime years lasted longer have an advantage over others.

But most importantly, the list is influenced by opinion – both mine and yours.  Any Internet list of singers, particularly one that ranks women, is bound to create some controversy.  I don’t expect this to be any different.

So feel free to vote and/or comment on them as you read it.

Now, without further ado, I’ll let the women tell it…

Here are the 100 Women with the Greatest Impact on Music over the Past 50 Years!

DJ Rob DJ Rob
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Mar 27, 2016 - youtube.com - 442
100. Nancy Sinatra

When Frank Sinatra, Jr. died earlier this month (March 2016), I had to admit I had no idea that Frank Sinatra even had a son with his namesake. He went unnoticed by many of my friends as well. Not the same could be said for sister Nancy, who emerged from under her dad's immense shadow in the mid-1960s with a string of big pop hits, including two #1s: the iconic "These Boots Are Made For Walking" and "Something Stupid," a 1967 duet with her father. "Boots" alone (click above) might have been enough to secure Nancy a spot on this list.

 

DJRob

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17 thoughts on “100 Greatest Women in Music – the Past 50 Years”

    1. Uhh…maybe I should’ve clarified that this is based on success in America. That said, of the two you named, only Kate Bush might warrant consideration. PJ Harvey, while notable, is hardly one of the greatest artists in this country for the past 50 years.

  1. Madonna should be number 1. She is the most successful female artist in history acording to the Guiness Book and Billboard. She has 42 number 1 songs on the billboard club/dance chart the 42nd is Bitch I’m Madonna from 2015. Not to mention that she is the only women on the list of the most profitable Tours is history and recognized by the industry as the Queen of Pop.

  2. Where is Bonnie Tyler??? She knocked Michael Jacson`s Billie Jean off the nr one spot in USA and she was the first female to go stright to nr one in the UK album charts in history acording to the Guiness Book, and she had 2 top selling singles of all time

    1. I considered Bonnie Tyler, but having just two or three hits here in America – the basis for this list – just didn’t qualify her. And for the record, the song that knocked “Billie Jean” out of #1 here in the U.S. was “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, which was in turn displaced by “Beat It” (all in April 1983). Tyler’s “Total Eclipse” didn’t hit #1 until October ’83.

    1. Yes, I know all those artists. I addressed Kate Bush in a previous comment. As for Harry, easy correction re: still fronting Blondie, but it won’t change her ranking. As for the others, especially Siouxsie (of the Banshees), I don’t believe they warrant Top 100 ranking here in America.

  3. Donna Summer sits too low. She was the first female artist to dominate the pop charts. She scored 6 top 4 singles from Nov 25, 1978 to Nov 24, 1979 with 4 #1s, 1 #2, 1 #4. She took 3 double albums to the top of the charts in 14 months. She was the first female (and only the second ever- singing nun in December 1963) to have the #1 single and #1 album at the same time in the modern pop era (3 times in 8 months). Had 9 consecutive top 5 singles, and was Billboard’s top music act from 1976 to 82 with 12 top 10 singles (pre MTV era). She was the first black female played in heavy rotation on MTV, the first to have her videos played in consistent heavy rotation on MTV (followed by the Pointer Sisters and Tina Turner). The first to be nominated for an MTV Awards. The first artist to build a career on dance music. Only artist to win Grammys in 4 different genres, Rock, R & B, Dance & Gospel. Named the Diva de Tutte Dive – the first true diva of the modern rock era – by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    1. Hmmm…you’ve made a very good case for the late great Donna Summer. But I have one correction…she was not the FIRST female artist to dominate the pop charts. Many women (Connie Francis, Diana Ross, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack, Olivia Newton-John, Helen Reddy) all achieved at least three #1s before Donna even had her first (“MacArthur Park”). And Ross had four before then, not to mention the twelve she had with the Supremes in the ’60s. Nonetheless, I’d say she’s in some pretty good company to be ranked where she is. But I don’t disagree with any of the accolades you mention, for she is a true legend.

  4. The top 3 barely ever wrote or produced any of their own music. I’d take Marian Carey and Madonna on the top two positions over these top three.

    1. Not true about Aretha, but you’re correct regarding #2 and #3. I gave them more credit for having come earlier and – especially in Aretha’s and Diana’s cases – not having come up during the video era and having that as an additional marketing tool during their peaks (when sales in general were lower…especially for women).

Your thoughts?