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Top 5 Female Singers of all Time

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Showing 1-25 of 294 posts in this discussion
Posted on Oct 20, 2014 2:20:26 PM PDT
Mike B. says:
Nice to see a couple mentions of Ronnie Spector on this page. Another from that era I like is Mary Weiss (of The Shangri-Las).

Posted on May 13, 2014 6:29:07 PM PDT
J. J. Martin says:
Aretha Franklin
Joni Mitchell
Ella Fitzgerald
Laura Nyro
Sandy Denny

Posted on Feb 19, 2014 2:34:40 AM PST
Evan says:
Lots of contributors to this thread have named Karen Carpenter among their Top 5. A DVD of Carpenters in Live Performances in Australia 1972 has been released and this really is Karen at her best.

I don't think that you'd find a better soft rock performance than this interpretation of "Ticket to Ride". Some have noted that she sounded best of all when also playing the drums. When choosing our Top 5 singers we should be discounting instrumental side of course - but it is clear to me that her control of phrasing, timing, rhythm and syncopation was related to her ability on her chosen instrument.

Karen will always be in my Top 5!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 18, 2014 1:36:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 18, 2014 1:58:51 PM PST
Evan says:
Great to see Christine McVie's name there. Have you all heard the amazing news?

Yes, she regrets leaving Fleetwood Mac (15 years ago) and now yes, she is back. Turns 70 this year but I am sure she will be "Better than Before"!

The reality is that she was in many ways the greatest asset of the group, and to my mind a much better all round musician than the more populist Stevie Nicks. As this article says:

" Mick Fleetwood of the band said that McVie has been writing new songs for the group, and they will be recording together in March.

McVie joined the band in 1970 after marrying the group's bassist, John McVie. She continued on with the group for the next 28 years as MAIN songwriter, vocalist and keyboard player. She's responsible for some of the band's biggest hits, including 'Say You Love Me', 'Don't Stop', 'You Make Loving Fun', 'Little Lies' and 'Everywhere'.

Mick Fleetwood of the band said that McVie has been writing new songs for the group, and they will be recording together in March.

McVie joined the band in 1970 after marrying the group's bassist, John McVie. She continued on with the group for the next 28 years as main songwriter, vocalist and keyboard player. She's responsible for some of the band's biggest hits, including 'Say You Love Me', 'Don't Stop', 'You Make Loving Fun', 'Little Lies' and 'Everywhere'. "

Posted on Feb 18, 2014 1:06:26 PM PST
genisean says:
McVie, Spector, Washington, McLachlan, Simon. No order, I just love their voices.

Posted on Feb 7, 2014 6:33:07 PM PST
SuZ says:
I haven't looked at all of the posts, but has NO ONE mentioned K D Lange? She's got to be up there.

Posted on Jan 28, 2014 12:32:44 PM PST
1- melanie
2- patti smith
3- tina turner
4- joan jett
5- florance welsh

Posted on Jan 28, 2014 5:36:06 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 29, 2014 4:33:59 AM PST
BMZ says:
Judy Garland
Ronnie Spector
George Michael
Michael Jackson
Shirley Bassey

Posted on Jan 18, 2014 7:04:30 PM PST
My God.....I would cringe every single time (all too frequent) I heard Whitney Houston trying to sing "I Will Always Love You." I thought she was yodelling! I just kept praying she would hit a damned note and STAY ON IT! For all of you who adored her.....have at it. Good for you. I'll just never be "in."

Posted on Jan 18, 2014 12:39:20 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 18, 2014 12:46:21 PM PST
Evan says:
Looking at Spotify, I noted Martina McBride singing "O Holy Night". This is a perfect test piece.
I don't think this version is distinguished. Listen to it and tell me why.

I don't know a lot of material by this kind of artist but here is one that caught my ear with "Cathy's Clown" while visit USA in 1989 - Reba McEntire. Listening to it now, I can see why - it is deeply Southern country sound isn't it - she mainly gets there with a fabulous arrangement on this Every Brothers hit which she brings to life.

Some might include her in a Top 5 because of her repeated successes:

"Reba holds the record for the most Academy of Country Music Top Female Vocalist Awards (seven), and American Music Awards for Favorite Country Female Artist (twelve). She also holds the distinction of being the first to win the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year Award four times consecutively. Martina McBride won Female Vocalist four times, although not consecutively. In 2013, Miranda Lambert tied Reba to win Female Vocalist four years in a row. Reba is also the only female to achieve solo number ones across four decades."

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2014 12:37:27 PM PST
Evan says:
I have just listened to Patsy Cline singing "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy". Yes, I would have been a fan if I had been around during her era.
She gets quite a crazy concept across in "Crazy" and that is a plus. She gets her message across clearly and expressively.

I see she died in a plane crash in 1963, around the time of the British invasion. It would have been interesting to see how she dealt with the changing music market.
I don't see too many clues regarding her versatility.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2014 12:03:30 PM PST
Evan says:
The mood of Dolly's original is quite different. It is an intimate statement of sad loss.

I am not clear that the defiant approach by Whitney would be the usual sentiment. Would someone in her position really be thumping the table in this way - I will always love you, take that!!

Incidentally I heard Dolly in an interview express appreciation to Whitney for taking this song to a world-wide market. Dolly Parton is an astute businesswoman and no doubt sees significant royalties flow in to this day!

A song is what we say, set to music. Very often, a song strikes home when we find the tempo and phrasing reflect the way we would speak the same passage. I invite you to experiment!

Posted on Jan 18, 2014 10:12:54 AM PST
PhilipHS says:
No love for Patsy Cline or Martina McBride?! Those two can sing with the best of them. I guess the more I think about it, I agree with the sentiment of this thread, and should move Whitney down 5-10 pegs. I hereby demote her from Top 5 to Top 20.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2014 6:40:26 AM PST
Fischman says:
Funny you mention "I will always love you." For me, that's a perfect example of why I don't hold Whitney in such high regard. Yes, her voice is amazing and it shines even more without all that overproduction you speak of. But again, it falls flat for me on anything other than a vocal show-off level.

I have zero use for country music, but when Dolly sings that one, I actually believe she means it and is singing it just for me. When Whitney sings it, it just sounds like a great voice making impressive sounds. She may just as well be singing the users manual to my truck--it would still sound awesome, but lack the emotional impact the song is designed to express.

Posted on Jan 17, 2014 6:17:38 PM PST
Evan says:
This reminds me of Bette Midler and her two big anthems - "The Wind Beneath My Wings" and "From a Distance".
Admittedly, Bette succeeded in the former where others have failed, but I would be inclined to thank her arrangers too because Bette is not really in the top flight - Bette is more of an entertainment package.

I think "I Will Always Love You" is a stronger song for Whitney but my reservations are much the same when I listen to it now.
For example, an immediate improvement could be made if she had enough breath to sing simply "I will think of you every step of the way" "I will always love you" without all the carving up.

A good song for Whitney and a good song for Dolly. The search for 5 truly great singers would not stop here.

Posted on Jan 17, 2014 4:16:01 PM PST
PhilipHS says:
Since I brought up Whitney in this thread, let me add this: I think she had an incredible voice, but her choice of material was substandard to say the least. Most of her songs are drowned in a swamp of 80's over-production (too-loud drums, cheesy keyboards, etc.). But when she sang Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," it stopped me in my tracks.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2014 12:59:52 PM PST
Evan says:
And I will make that very argument - that the very best singers SHOULD sing songs by the very best songwriters. That way we have the whole package for posterity!

In the case of Whitney Houston, we should ignore her personal life, and I would not like to think that this would influence our thinking about her greatness (or otherwise) as an interpreter. Entertainers in general seem to have their problems.

I've just played "The Greatest Love" on Spotify - and been reminded how poor her phrasing was. Puffing and panting through the lines - I thought her aerobic fitness was much better!
This certainly sabotages the message. Plus the unevenness of the voice, the tendency to bellow etc.

For fun I was looking for a better interpretation here:

There is a strong similarity to "We're All Alone" (Rita Coolidge or Boz Scaggs versions for example) - did you notice this.

The original version by guitarist George Benson sounds like a guitarist who sings sometimes. On Spotify - Shirley Bassey seems more flexible and persuasive to me - but still somewhat athletic.

I wonder if there is a definitive version of this intimate lyric anywhere?

For a start - could someone locate a version where the singer sings in one breath "I decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow". A simple request, but one that might get us back on track!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2014 10:59:09 AM PST
Fischman says:
Agreed . . it's the final product that counts, regardless of where it came from.

I remember being shocked when I learned that Glen Campbells greatest songs were written by someone else (Jimmy Webb).

Of course, a truly great interpreter can make a song his/her own.

Posted on Jan 17, 2014 9:56:54 AM PST
PhilipHS says:
I never "blame" a singer for not being a songwriter. Sinatra and Ella weren't songwriters, for example. One could make the argument that the very best singers should sing songs by the very best songwriters.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2014 8:38:20 AM PST
Fischman says:
As I explained, the problem lies in her interpretation--it didn't seem genuine so I didn't enjoy it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2014 4:45:53 PM PST
Evan says:
But Whitney did not write "The Greatest Love" did she? She interpreted it. She did not need to identify with the lyrics if this was a role play. Lots of baritones sing "I Am A Pirate King" but none are pirates.

So I am not sure that I'd call Whitney an imposter any more than any other singers interpreting a song. The question for me is whether I would greatly enjoy a 3 hour concert of her vocal barrage!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2014 11:31:40 AM PST
Fischman says:
Whitney the athlete indeed . . . but genuine artist . . . not so much.

I remember hearing her and marveling at her voice, but thought something was missing. There was a shortage in her delivery. She was certainly flexing her vocal muscles in a most impressive way, but somehow missing the mark, at least if one chose to look beyond the magnificent vocal athleticism. Here she is singing all these soaring vocal lines of great inspiration, but they rang hollow to me.

Then, as details of who she was became known, I understood why. There was no integrity behind that magnificence. "I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shado," yet despite all that talent, she put herself in squarely in the shadow of the likes of Bobby Brown. "No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity." And yet she whittled away her own dignity time after time.

I'm not trying to say she wasn't a magnificent talent, and I know few, if any artists, live up to what they portray through their music. Seeing through the facade here did have an impact on my appreciation of her music. I am often accused of putting too much emphasis on the quality of the voice and not enough on the quality of the artistry and genuineness of delivery (I don't care for Dylan, Springsteen, Young, etc); to me, people who revere Whitney are perfect examples of that.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2014 11:24:29 AM PST
Evan says:
Who are these people?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2014 11:24:11 AM PST
Evan says:
What has happened to Melanie? Has she really done enough?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2014 11:23:44 AM PST
Evan says:
If Stevie Nicks then surely Christine McVie?
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Discussion in:  Pop forum
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Initial post:  Feb 19, 2012
Latest post:  Oct 20, 2014

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