A MINI-HISTORY OF WOMEN’S SINGING (IN ENGLISH): THE 20TH CENTURY

This is, no doubt, the strangest post I have ever published, but pending the transformation by my students of this list into a Spotify list (as they promised), here is my selection of 20th century songs by women (in English). I am currently teaching a Cultural Studies course on women in pop, and instead of lecturing to my students on names and titles corresponding to ninety years of women’s music, I produced this list and invited them to spend part of three sessions sampling the goods. In that way I managed, besides, to find an interesting use for the cellphones in class!

Please, don’t think that the list is ready-made and available elsewhere, or that it was easily compiled. I went through lots of websites claiming to offer the best of specific decades and came up with a selection that while surely very imperfect hopefully serves well as an introduction. As you may see, I have placed the women singers in order by date of birth. They appear in the decade when they had their first hit, with some exceptions (for instance, Tina Turner, though famous in the 1960s, appears here in the 1980s when she made her glorious comeback). The list ends in 1999 because my students are working on a collective e-book about 21st century women’s songs (in English), to be published next January. Finally, all the songs can be found on YouTube, which has the advantage of having you see the women in question to better learn (or remember) what wonderful artists they all are.

1920-29: Del blues al jazz
Marion Harris (1896–1944), ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody’ (1916)
Mamie Smith (1883–1946), ‘Crazy Blues’ (1920)
Ethel Waters (1896–1977), ‘Stormy Weather’ (1933)
Ida Cox (1896–1967), ‘Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues’ (1924)
Gertrude Pridgett Rainey, a.k.a. Ma Rainey (1886–1939), ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ (1927), ‘Deep Moaning Blues’ (1928)
Bessie Smith (1892–1937), ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’ (1929)
Clara Smith (1894–1935), ‘Troublesome Blues’ (1927)
Bertha “Chippie” Hill (1905–1950), ‘Trouble in Mind’ (1926)
Annette Hanshaw (1901–1985), ‘Am I Blue’ (1929)
Victoria Spivey (1906–1976), ‘How Do You Do It that Way?’ (1929)

1930-39: ‘Big band’, jazz, canciones de películas
Sippie Wallace (1898–1986), ‘I’m a Mighty Tight Woman’ (1937)
Jeanette MacDonald (1903–1965), ‘San Francisco’ (1936)
Blanche Calloway and her Boys (1904–1978), ‘I Need Loving’ (1934)
The Boswell Sisters: Martha (1905–1958), Connee (1907 –1976) y Helvetia “Vet” (1911–1988), ‘Cheek to Cheek’ (1934–5)
Martha Tilton (1915–2006), ‘And the Angels Sing’ (1939)
Billie Holiday (1915–1959), ‘Strange Fruit’ (1939)
Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996), ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ (1931, cover version 1956)
Bea Wain (1917–2017), ‘Heart and Soul’ (1939)
Judy Garland (1922–1969), ‘Over the Rainbow’ (1939)

The 1940s: More blues, swing and vocal melody
Alberta Hunter (1895–1984), ‘The Love I Have for You’ (1940)
Mahalia Jackson (1911–1972), ‘Move On Up A Little Higher’ (1947)
The Andrews Sisters: LaVerne Sophia (1911–1967), Maxene Anglyn (1916–1995), and Patricia Marie “Patty” (1918–2013), ‘Rum and Coca–Cola’ (1944)
Lena Horne (1917–2010), ‘Mad about the Boy’ (1941)
Helen Forrest (1918–1999), big band singer, ‘Skylark’ (1942)
Vera Lynn (1917–2020), ‘We’ll Meet Again’ (1943)
Anita O’Day (1919–2006), ‘Let Me Off Uptown’ (1941)
June Christy (1925–1990), ‘Tampico’ (1945)

The 1950s: Beginnings of pop
Dinah Shore (1916–1994), ‘Love and Marriage’ (1955)
Georgia Gibbs (1918–2006), ‘Kiss of Fire’ (1952)
Peggy Lee (1920–2002), ‘Fever’ (1958)
Sarah Lois Vaughan (1924–1990), ‘Misty’ (1959)
Doris Day (1922–2019), ‘Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)’ (1956)
Dinah Washington (1924–1963) [O’Brien: ‘the missing link between the blues and the swing of the 1940s and the glorious technicolor of 60s R&B’], ‘What a Diff’rence a Day Makes!’ (1959)
Lita Roza (1926–2008), ‘Secret Love’ (1954)
Julie London (1926–2000), ‘Cry Me a River’ (1953, 1955)
Eartha Kitt (1927–2008), ‘Santa Baby’ (1953)
Patti Page (1927–2013), ‘How much is that doggie in the window?’ (1952)
Rosemary Clooney (1928–2002), ‘Tenderly’ (1952)
Connie Francis (1937 –) [O’Brien: ‘America’s biggest 1950s star’], ‘Lipstick on your collar’ (1959)
Patsy Cline (1932–1963), ‘Walking after Midnight’ (1957)
Debbie Reynolds (1932–2016), ‘Tammy’ (1957)

1950s to 1960s: Motown and the girl group
The Supremes 1959–1977 (Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard), ‘Where Did your Love Go?’ (1964)
The Ronettes 1950–1966 (Veronica Bennett (Ronnie Spector), Estelle Bennett, Nedra Talley), ‘Be My Baby’
Mary Wells (1943–1999), ‘My Guy’ (1964)

The 1960s: Pop, rock, folk and beyond
Petula Clark (1932–), ‘Downtown’ (1965)
Shirley Bassey (UK, 1937–), ‘Goldfinger’ (1965)
Etta James (1938–2012), ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ (1965)
Nico (1938–1988), with the Velvet Underground, ‘Sunday Morning’ (1967)
Dusty Springfield (1939–1999), ‘I Only Wanna Be with You’ (1964)
Grace Slick (1939–) (with Jefferson Starplane), ‘White Rabbit’ (1967)
Dionne Warwick (1940 –), ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’ (1968)
Cass Elliot (1941–1974), with The Mamas & the Papas, ‘California Dreaming’ (1966)
Aretha Franklin (1942–2018), ‘Respect’ (1967)
Janis Joplin (1943–1970), ‘Me and Bobby Mc Gee’ (1970)
Brenda Lee (1944–), ‘I’m Sorry’ (1960)
Cher (1946–), with Sonny ‘I Got You Baby’ (1965)
Brenda Holloway (1946–), ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ (1962)
Lesley Gore (1946–2015), ‘It’s My Party’ (1963)
Nina Simone (1933–2003), ‘Mississippi Goddam’ (1964)
Cilla Black (1943–2015), ‘You’re my World’ (1965)
Sandie Shaw (1947–), ‘Girl Don’t Come’ (1969)
Lulu (1948–), ‘To Sir with Love’ (1967)

The 1970s: Folk, pop, rock, disco…
Joan Baez (1941–), ‘Diamond and Rust’ (1975)
Carole King (1942–), ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ (1971)
Barbra Streisand (1942–), ‘The Way We Were’ (1974)
Joni Mitchell (1943–), ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ (1971)
Debbie Harry (frontwoman Blondie) (1945–), ‘Heart of Glass’ (1978)
Anni–Frid Lyngstad (1945–) and Agnetha Fältskog (1950–) (with ABBA), ‘Waterloo’ (1974)
Carly Simon (1945–), ‘You’re So Vain’ (1971)
Linda Rondstadt (1945–), ‘Blue Bayou’ (1977)
Patti Smith (1946), ‘Because the Night’ (1978)
Dolly Parton (1946–), ‘I Will Always Love You’ (1974)
Emmylou Harris (1947–), ‘If I Could Only Win Your Love’ (1975)
Olivia Newton–John (1948–), ‘Hoplessly Devoted to You`(1979)
Donna Summer (1948–2012), ‘I Feel Love’ (1977)
Stevie Nicks (1948–) (with Fleetwood Mac), ‘Dreams’ (1977)
Bonnie Tyler (1951–), ‘It’s a Heartache’ (1977)
Kate Bush (1958–), ‘Wuthering Heights’ (1978)

The 1980s: the MTV age begins
Tina Turner (1939–), ‘The Best’ (1988)
Grace Jones (1948–), ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ (1985)
Pat Benatar (1953–), ‘Love is a Battlefield’ (1984)
Cyndi Lauper (1953–), ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ (1979, 1983)
Annie Lennox (1954–), (with Eurythmics), ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ (1983)
Chaka Khan (1954–), ‘Through the Fire’ (1984)
Gloria Stefan (1957–), ‘Conga’ (1988)
Siouxie Sioux (1957–) (frontwoman Siouxie and the Banshees), ‘Happy House’ (1980)
Madonna (1958–), ‘Like a Virgin’ (1984)
Belinda Carlyle (1958–) (lead singer The Go–Gos), ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ (1987)
Sade Adu (1959–), ‘Smooth Operator’ (1984)
Suzanne Vega (1959–), ‘Luka’ (1987)
Alison Moyet (1961–) (with Yazoo), ‘Only You’ (1982)
Whitney Houston (1963–2012), ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ (1987)
Tracy Chapman (1964–), ‘Fast Car’ (1988)
Janet Jackson (1966–), ‘Rhythm Nation’ (1989)
Kylie Minogue (1968–), ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ (1987)

The 1990s: Before social media
Marie Fredriksson (1958–2019) (with Roxette), ‘It Must Have Been Love’ (1990)
P.J. Harvey (1959–), ‘Down by the Water’ (1995)
Melissa Etheridge (1961–), ‘Come to my Window’ (1993)
Björk (1965–), ‘Venus as a Boy’ (1993)
Sheryl Crow (1962–), ‘All I Wanna Do’ (1994)
Shania Twain (1965–), ‘That Don’t Impress me Much’ (1997)
Sinead O’Connor (1966–), ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ (1990)
Liz Phair (1967–), ‘Supernova’ (1994)
Toni Braxton (1967–), ‘Unbreak my Heart’ (1966)
Tori Amos (1967–), ‘Tear in Your Hand’ (1992)
Sarah McLachlan (1968–), ‘Angel’ (1999)
Anastacia (1968–), ‘I’m Outta Love’ (1999)
Lisa Loeb (1968–), ‘I Do’ (1997)
Celine Dion (1968–), ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (1997)
Gwen Stefani (1969–) (with No Doubt), ‘Just a Girl’ (1995)
Mariah Carey (1969–), ‘Hero’ (1993)
Jennifer Lopez (1969–), ‘If You Had my Love’ (1999)
Missy Elliot (1971–), ‘Sock It 2 Me’ (1997)
Alanis Morrisette (1974–), ‘You Oughta Know’ (1995)
Aaliyah (1979–2001), ‘You Are Love’ (1994)
Brandy (1979–), ‘I Wanna Be Down’ (1994)
Christina Aguilera (1980–), ‘Come On Over (All I Want is You’) (1999)
Britney Spears (1981–), ‘Baby One More Time’ (1998)

Enjoy!

I publish a post once a week (follow @SaraMartinUAB). Comments are very welcome! Download the yearly volumes from https://ddd.uab.cat/record/116328. Visit my website https://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/. The Spanish version of the posts is available from https://blogs.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/es/

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