Music has been shaped by many influential women throughout history. From classical composers to modern-day performers and producers, their impact can still be felt today. In honor of these brilliant talents and Women’s History Month, we have compiled a list of the top five most influential women in music.
Taylor Swift is one of the most successful and celebrated music artists of our time, having sold over 50 million albums worldwide and been honored with 10 Grammy Awards. Taylor Swift was named by her parents after James Taylor, making her destined to be a musician. Hailing from West Reading, Pennsylvania, where she grew up, Swift made the move to Nashville with her family at 14 years old to pursue a career in country music. The trailblazing international star has become known for her songwriting which challenges unjustness and sexism in the industry, as well as her bold stance on female empowerment. Her uniqueness in the pop-country music world comes from taking risks and staying steadfast to her own style of songwriting. This artistic bravery is what has made Taylor a global success across genres. She regularly releases albums and is beloved by her worldwide fanbase of “Swifties”.
Watch the music video for Taylor’s song “Blank Space”:
Aretha Franklin was an incomparable talent who left an undeniable impact on music. Her soulful delivery earned her eighteen Grammy Awards throughout her sixty-year career, with a repertoire that included gospel, R&B, and pop ballads. She has become an iconic figure in American popular culture, remembered fondly as “The Queen of Soul”. Her rendition of the art form is characterized by extraordinary passion and feeling in an age when many performers simply sought to make it big by conforming to trends. Aretha Franklin was born in 1942 and grew up in Detroit. The superstar was first noticed for her incredible singing abilities by her father, who was a minister at the church where she would sing gospel. At the young age of 18 Aretha Franklin had already been signed to a record label, and she went on to sell over 25 million records and receive universal acclaim. Aretha kept singing for her entire life and gave her final performance in New York City on November 7, 2017, less than a year before her passing. Although she is gone, Aretha Franklin will never be forgotten by the millions she uplifted with her musical gift.
Watch Aretha Franklin perform her hit song “Respect” in 1967:
There is no denying Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s impact when it comes to the music industry. She has solidified her place with each successive release, topping charts and breaking records with her innovative sound and thought-provoking content. With a laundry list of awards and accolades under her belt – including 29 MTV Video Music Awards and 32 Grammy awards – there is no mistaking Beyoncé’s influence in the music world. Her timelessness continues to entertain audiences around the world, making her a revolutionary artist in every sense of the word. Beyoncé grew up in Houston, Texas where she attended catholic school, and her dance instructor took note of her musical abilities. At age 9, Beyoncé joined a singing group called Girl’s Tyme, which the world would later know as Destiny’s Child. In 1997 the group had a hit song called “No No No”, which jump-started Beyoncé’s career in the public eye. She has gone on to have an incredibly successful career both with Destiny’s Child and her solo work, releasing hit songs like “Halo”, “Single Ladies”, and “Crazy in Love”.
Watch the video for Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”:
Known by only her first name, Madonna Louise Ciccone is an iconic singer, songwriter, and actress who achieved fame in the 1980s. With a career that has spanned four decades, she has been celebrated for expanding the limits of pop music with her image, music videos, and live performances. Having sold over 300 million records worldwide, Madonna has earned seven Grammy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. She has released massive hit songs such as “Take a Bow”, “Like a Virgin”, and “Crazy for You”. Her influence extends beyond her work as a musician and into the realm of humanitarian efforts. She has raised awareness about HIV/AIDS and LGBT causes and used her platform to speak out on social and political issues. The pop sensation hasn’t stopped making music, with releases as recent as 2022! Madonna is a trailblazing icon in the music industry and has inspired generations of people around the world.
Watch Madonna perform her song “Vogue” at the 1990 MTV Awards:
Whitney Houston was a legendary musician, actress, and producer known for her remarkable talent and soulful voice. This voice earned her six Grammys and twenty-two American Music Awards. She will always be remembered for her timeless ballads such as “I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing.” Born in Newark, New Jersey, Houston grew up around music and had natural performing abilities. Her self-titled debut album launched her to pop icon status, and she went on to sell over 200 million records. Additionally, Whitney had an impressive acting career appearing in popular films such as “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.” Houston’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV is considered widely to be the greatest of all time. Even though she passed away in 2012, her influence on the music industry continues to be felt today.
Watch Whitney Houston perform “The Star-Spangled Banner”:
Honorable mentions include Adele, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Cardi B
There you have it–our list acknowledges five incredible women musicians who the world wouldn’t be the same without!