By John Nathan

It’s no surprise that men and women love the sound of a woman’s singing voice. After all, the sound of our mother’s voice singing us to sleep comforted and consoled us as babies.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’ve put together an amazing playlist of ten of the most incredible female voices to ever be put on wax.

Take a listen and learn a little bit about each one. Then tell us if you agree that these ladies are some of the greatest female voices from the past 100 years.


Bessie Smith

1920’s – BESSIE SMITH – Known by her peers and fans alike as the “Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith defined the genre in the 1920’s and remained popular throughout the decade to follow until her career and life were tragically cut short in a car accident in rural Tennessee.  Among one of her biggest hits was the track Do Your Duty.





Ethel Waters

1930’s – ETHEL WATERS Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award and the incomparable Ethel Waters was the second. An accomplished actress and singer, Waters easily traversed multiple genres – including the blues, jazz and gospel. It’s been said that her live rendition of Stormy Weather was a particular favorite among audiences at Harlem’s fabled hot spot The Cotton Club.





Ella Fitzgerald

1940’s – ELLA FITZGERALD – With a career that spanned six decades and a vocal range that soared three octaves, Ella Fitzgerald has been widely regarded by many as one of the greatest female singers who ever stepped in front of the mic. Her collaborations with the pantheon of jazz gods are perfect studies for any aspiring singer hoping  to master diction, tone and how to obtain the perfect pitch. Take a listen to her duet with Satchmo himself, Louis Armstrong, as they make magic of Summertime from Gershwin’s legendary Broadway musical Porgy and Bess.



Celia Cruz (Photo Credit: last.fm)

1950’s – CELIA CRUZ – Desi Arnaz may have made Mambo popular in the US on television, but it is the late Celia Cruz who gave the music its Azucar! (sugar!) Born in the working-class neighborhood of Santos Suárez in Havana, Cuba, Celia Cruz first burst onto the music scene in 1950 when she stepped into the shoes of the recently departed lead singer of the Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera. After Fidel Castro seized power in her homeland, Cruz and her husband became US citizens in 1959. She would go on to record, make appearances in films like Mambo Kings starring Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas and perform until 2002 – one year before her death from brain cancer in 2003.

Here’s a sampling of Celia Cruz in the early days – a 1953 recording of Matiagua by Celia Cruz & Sonora Matancera


Aretha Franklin (Photo Credit: Indianapublicmedia.org)

1960’s – ARETHA FRANKLIN – Like many great power vocalists, the “Queen of Soul” began her career singing in the church choir. Throughout her storied career, Aretha Franklin has voiced anthems that empower and encourage women.  From “Natural Woman” to “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” Franklin’s body of work has exuded a unique blend of strength, sensuality and confidence that resonates with audiences male and female alike. With so many songs to choose from, there is, ultimately, only one song that sums up how we truly feel about the Queen. So let’s offer her all of the Respect she deserves.

(R-E-S-P-E-C-T…sock it to me)


Barbra Streisand

1970’s – BARBRA STREISAND – In an era punctuated by throbbing disco beats and pulsating funky bass licks, the decidedly un-funky, soaring vocals of Barbra Streisand also found their way to the top of the charts. Turns in two of the decade’s most poignant love stories – The Way We Were and A Star is Born – further solidified Streisand’s status as a bona fide superstar. She earned her second Academy Award for penning the lyrics to Evergreen – the love theme from A Star Is Born – which she starred in opposite Kris Kristofferson.


Gloria Estefan


1980’s – GLORIA ESTEFAN – The heavily synthesized-sound that is so characteristic of songs from the 80’s becomes completely transformed when coupled with the crystal clear vocals and Latin styling of Gloria Estefan. Long before Selena, J-Lo and Shakira, Gloria Estefan was bringing the Latina heat to the pop charts – and three decades and a near-fatal tour bus crash later – she’s still looking great and going strong.




Alanis Morrisette

1990’s – ALANIS MORRISETTE – While the pop charts from the 90’s may have been dominated by power ballads from big-budget Hollywood film soundtracks, one angst-filled Canadian voice emerged and paved the way for a new generation of in-your-face female vocalists.  Nobody was ready for Alanis Morrisette’s ground-breaking album Jagged Little Pill when it was released in 1995. But one thing is clear – once we heard it – we couldn’t stop listening.




Mary J Blige


2000’s – MARY J. BLIGE –After a stellar debut in 1992 and enjoying ever-growing stardom throughout the 90’s, Mary J. Blige officially achieved diva status in the 2000’s with the release of 5 albums in the decade, alone, a slew of film roles and being named #80 on cabler VH-1’s top 100 singers of all time list.  Her hit song Be Without You is just one example of the soulful passionate love song that Mary J has become famous and beloved for.






2010’s – ADELE – Continuing the rich musical heritage of soulful British singers like Dusty Springfield and the gone-too-soon Amy Winehouse, Adele has made an indelible impression on the music world and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Her hit Rolling in the Deep illustrates the depths of the singer’s power, range and total voice control.


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