The Most Phenomenal Women in Music History

Carole King
Carole King.

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There is no doubt that women have come a long way in many different fields including music. Here we will take a look at the profiles of phenomenal women in music who have contributed their talents to help shape music history.

Julie Andrews - The younger generation knows her as the regal Queen from The Princess Diaries movies, while the older crowd knows her from her astounding performance as Maria in the film The Sound of Music. Through the years Julie Andrews has continued to attract a fan-base of mixed age groups who appreciate her past works and look forward to her future endeavors.

Amy Beach - Known as the foremost American woman composer who successfully transcended the barriers of society during her time, Amy Beach has composed some of the most beautiful and captivating music for the piano.

Nadia Boulanger - Nadia Boulanger was a respected teacher of musical composition, an organist, and conductor of the 20th century. In 1937, she became the first woman to conduct a program in its entirety with London's Royal Philharmonic. Nadia Boulanger taught privately, too, maintaining what is known among her students as the "Wednesday sessions."

Francesca Caccini - Nicknamed La Cacchina (The Songbird), Francesca Caccini was a prominent female composer of the Baroque period and the first known female composer to write a full opera. Aside from being a composer, she was also a poet, vocalist, and musician.

Teresa Carreño - Carreño was a piano prodigy, celebrated concert pianist, composer, conductor, mezzo-soprano, and director of an opera company. Her gift as a pianist and composer was evident early on; she started composing short piano pieces when she was only 6 years old.

Cécile Chaminade - She was a prolific French pianist and composer who went on extensive tours and gained popularity especially for her piano pieces.

Tracy Chapman - "Fast Car" is a song from her self-titled debut album released in 1988 and the one that propelled her up the music charts. With her unique voice, memorable melodies, and lyrics that tell compelling stories, it's no wonder she remains such a beloved artist.

Charlotte Church - A vocal prodigy who astounded many by her beautiful, angelic voice. She was first known as a classical vocalist before crossing over to pop music at the age of 16.

Patsy Cline - She was only 30 years old and at the height of her career when she tragically died in a plane crash. Patsy Cline's life may have been cut short, but her memory lives on through her music. With timeless songs like "I Fall to Pieces," "Crazy," and "She's Got You," Patsy remains one of country music's unforgettable vocalists.

Doris Day - She started out as a big-band vocalist during the 1940s, with hits like "Secret Love" and "Que Sera Sera." She later transitioned to movies, making more than 30 films.

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre - One of the most notable women composers during the Baroque period, she was known as a gifted harpsichordist, improviser, and composer.

Ruth Etting - She was a singer during the 1920s and 30s who earned the title "America's Sweetheart of Song." She recorded several songs, appeared on Broadway musicals, and in motion pictures. Her songs include "Ten Cents A Dance" and "Love Me Or Leave Me."

Vivian Fine - She was a piano prodigy who entered Chicago Musical College when she was just 5 years old. Considered one of the most celebrated women composers of her time, she wrote over 100 compositions throughout the course of her productive career.

Ella Fitzgerald - With her powerful voice, wide vocal range, and incredible scat-singing, it's no wonder Ella Fitzgerald earned the title "The First Lady of Song." She worked with other jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Benny Goodman and received honorary doctorates from several prestigious universities.

Connie Francis - The road to success didn't come easy for Connie Francis. At the beginning of her career, she recorded and released several singles that went unnoticed. It was her 1958 hit song titled "Who's Sorry Now" that propelled her to stardom. Today, she is considered one of the world's most legendary and versatile singers.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel - She lived at a time when opportunities for women were strictly limited. Although a brilliant composer and pianist, Fanny's father discouraged her from pursuing a career in music. Nevertheless, Fanny succeeded in carving a niche in music history.

Billie Holiday - Billie Holiday was one of the greatest blues singers of her time known for her emotional songs and soulful voice. Eleanora Fagan, famously known as Billie Holiday, lives on in the many recordings she did during her fruitful career.

Alberta Hunter - She was a vocalist and songwriter whose repertoire included jazz, blues, and pop. Her career began in the 1920s but she decided to retire from performing in the 1950s. A true inspiration, she resumed singing and recording in 1977 at the age of 82.

Janis Ian - Many admire her, not only for her skill as a singer-songwriter, but also for her tenacity. She recorded and released her controversial song "Society's Child" when she was only 15. Her most well-known work is the heart-wrenching song "At Seventeen."

Norah Jones - Norah Jones is definitely more than a pretty face. Her powerful vocals, her prowess as a pianist, and her unique sound that fuses several music influences makes her one of music's most successful female artists.

Carole King - One of the artists who inspired and defined the role of a singer-songwriter, her well-crafted lyrics, captivating melodies and her unique voice make her songs timeless. She is the artist behind hits like "So Far Away" and "It's Too Late." King was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987.

Carmen McRae - Pianist, songwriter, and one of the finest singers of the 20th century, Carmen McRae recorded more than 50 albums during the course of her productive career. Many hail her for her remarkable beat-phrasing and the expressive way she interprets songs.

Joni Mitchell - Her gift for songwriting, her lovely voice, her style of playing the guitar and her guts to challenge the norms of the music industry truly put her a cut above the rest.

Peggy Lee - Lee was a jazz-oriented singer and songwriter who became especially popular in the 1950s. Although she is mainly associated to jazz music, Peggy Lee was open to other music genres including pop. Her sultry, purring voice has made numerous hits like the song "Fever" and her acting ability landed her on several films.

Florence Beatrice Price - One of the African-American women who made a lasting mark in music and paved the way for women composers. Her story is one of personal struggles, and ultimately, of success and recognition.

Ma Rainey - Deemed the "Mother of the Blues," is considered the first great blues singer. She made over 100 recordings under the Paramount label, was a captivating performer and an astute businesswoman as well.

Alma Schindler - She was an Austrian composer, author, and the wife of composer Gustav Mahler. They stayed together for 9 years until Mahler's death in 1911.

Clara Wieck Schumann - Known as the premier female composer of the Romantic period. Her compositions for the piano and her interpretation of works by other great composers are much appreciated to this day.

Beverly Sills - She left her mark not only in history but also in the hearts of the many people she touched. Whether it be through her singing or her many charitable causes, Beverly was someone who lived her life passionately.

Carly Simon - Simon's very unique and beautiful voice makes you want to stop and listen. Her songs can be described as reflective, evidently inspired by her experiences and the people in her life. Her passion for music can be seen in her body of work and her many achievements.

Bessie Smith - When we think of powerful and expressive voices of the blues, Bessie Smith's name easily comes to mind. Listen to her many songs and you'll surely feel the emotion behind her singing, which is why she earned the title "Empress of the Blues."

Germaine Tailleferre - One of the foremost French composers of the 20th century and the only female member of Les Six, a title given by the critic Henri Collet to a group of young composers during the 1920s.

Vanessa Mae - Vanessa Mae wowed the world with her electrifying performance on the violin. Noted as a crossover violinist, she effectively fused classical music with pop.

Sarah Vaughan - Nicknamed "Sassy" and "The Divine One," Sarah Vaughan was one of the greatest jazz vocalists in history whose career spanned almost 50 years. Her wide vocal range and her willingness to try out other music genres earned her numerous fans and the staying power every artist strives for.

Pauline Viardot - She started out as one of the most celebrated operatic singers in the late 1800s. Later on she focused her talents to composing and teaching. She could sing in soprano and contralto voices and her wide vocal range made her quite popular, attracting composers such as Schumann and Brahms to write pieces for her.

Hildegard von Bingen - Hildegard von Bingen's name remains prominent on the list of medieval composers. She wrote what is considered the earliest known musical drama in history entitled "The Ritual of the Virtues."

Dinah Washington - Also referred to as "The Queen of the Blues," she was a well-known vocalist of the mid-20th century. Her versatile vocal ability enabled her to record songs in various genres from blues to jazz to pop.