A few weekends ago I saw the Broadway show, A Night with Janis Joplin, which was fun. Be warned, your fellow audience members will likely sing along to Janis’s hits.
In the show, Janis tells the audience about growing up in Texas and the artists that inspired her, such as Nina Simone and Odetta. This got me thinking about my favorite female artists, and I decided to write about it here. Note that my list spans several different genres, and is in no way authoritative.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t start this list with Janis. Her voice is distinct with its gravelly tone and soulfulness. Some of Janis’s well known songs are “Me and Bobby McGee”, “A Piece of My Heart”, and “Mercedes Benz”.
Janis Joplin, The Essential Janis Joplin.
My parents forced me to listen to 101.1 FM, New York City’s oldies station, as a child so I am very familiar with The Ronettes–Ronnie Spector (then known as Veronica Bennett), Estelle Bennett, and Nedra Talley–and their most famous song “Be My Baby”. This song was played during the opening scene of Dirty Dancing. The New York Times recently published an article about how the track has stayed so popular over the years.
The Ronettes, Be My Baby: The Very Best of the Ronettes.
I like to imagine that Stevie Nicks is my rock and roll fairy godmother. She wrote “Silver Springs”, which ranks among my favorite songs. Stevie found fame with Fleetwood Mac before striking out on her own successful solo career, with hits such as “Edge of Seventeen” and “Leather and Lace”.
Here’s a clip of Stevie singing “Rhiannon”, her signature track about the Welsh Witch, with Fleetwood Mac.
An honorable mention goes to Stevie’s bandmate Christine McVie, who wrote one of the prettiest love songs: “Songbird”.
Stevie Nicks, Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks.
Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart
For those who believe that women can’t rock, allow me to introduce you to the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, lead singer and guitarist (respectively) of the band Heart. I grew up listening to “Dreamboat Annie”, “Alone”, and “Barracuda”, among other tracks. Ann and Nancy released a memoir last year called Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll.
Heart, The Essential Heart.
Sharon Jones, of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
If you ever have a chance to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings live and in concert, go. Luckily, they’re touring in 2014! Sharon will have you on your feet dancing with her throwback soul and funk. She and the Dap-Kings are my favorite artists to see live. Sharon was recently treated for cancer, and I’m looking forward to seeing her on the upcoming tour.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights.
The Dixie Chicks
Yes, the Chicks are a country band. I’ve been a longtime fan of theirs and feel that Natalie Maines, Emily Robison, and Martie Maguire, are incredible musicians. The band faced major backlash for criticizing President Bush in 2003, the aftermath of which is documented in the film Shut Up & Sing. That experience also inspired the song “Not Ready to Make Nice”, which won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 2006.
Dixie Chicks, The Essential Dixie Chicks.
Another fan of old school soul, Amy Winehouse broke out with her Grammy-winning album Back to Black. Amy was influenced by girl groups like The Ronettes, and wore dramatic winged eyeliner and styled her hair in a bouffant. Fun fact: The Dap-Kings were the backing musicians on Back to Black.
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black.
Which artists do you feel are missing from the list?
-Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian