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Influential women in the world of music:some iconic female musicians and singers

Updated on September 13, 2014
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Women in this modern era have made great inroads into the music industry, carving their respective niches. They have experienced both positive and negative acclaim. Whatever the reaction to their performances may be, a common argument may be that without the presence of these women, the music world would not be the same. When we think of influential women in music, names like Madonna, Lady Gaga and jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald come to mind. These women of music have certainly altered the substance of the music industry in the ways unique to themselves.


How women have made an impact on the music industry

Fashion

Many women have successfully grabbed the attention of audiences worldwide because of their fashion sense. Certainly, successful ladies in music have made us remember them because of classy elegance, Some have made themselves part of our musical memories because of their quirky attention-grabbing styles. So who are these ladies who have sometimes made jaws drop with the way they look?


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Bad Romance

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga made musical waves with her breakout hit, Bad Romance from her extended play the Fame Monster in 2009. A mix of music from the ‘80s and ‘90s and boasting a spoken bridge, full-throated chorus and elements of techno, Bad Romance details the experience of being in love with one’s best friend.

Whether critics love her or hate her, this lady certainly steals the limelight with her quirky sense of fashion. Just last month, she stepped out in a giant pink and blue dress to the roar of cheering fans. Her appearance in a meat dress was another limelight stealer.

Emilie Autumn: Prologue, across the sky

Emilie Autumn

She may not have as strong a presence as Lady Gaga, but Emilie, a singer, poet and violinist is certainly a lady who makes heads turn. Her unique blend of music, which she affectionately names Victoriandustrial, is an eclectic fusion of classical music and glamrock. She performs with her all female band The Bloody Crumpets. Emilie learned to read music before she could write. Releasing her first album, On a day: Music for Violin and Continuo through her independent label Traitor Records, she followed with her second album, Enchant in 2003. She has appeared in the backing band for singers Courtney Love and played the painted doll in Darren Lynn Bousman’s 2012 film, the Devil’s Carnival.

Emilie has not only caught attention with her music, she has done so with her unique sense of style. With her pillbox red hair and theatrical makeup, she personifies Glamrock cum Victorianesque on stage.

Emilie Autumn
Emilie Autumn | Source
Jun Togawa in a pink insect dress
Jun Togawa in a pink insect dress | Source

Jun Togawa

Jun Togawa, a Japanese musician and singer, started out early as an idol singer in the eighties. She has experimented with many musical genres while making sure that she remains true to herself and her art. She may not have had much commercial success, but remains a highly influential music figure as a solo artist and lead singer of the band Guernica. Her latest release, Togawa Fiction has elements of progressive rock and technopop.

Jun is best known for coming onstage in a fluorescent pink dress with insect wings. That certainly made her stand out in the crowd!

Musical Genre and style

The ladies above certainly made waves in terms of both music and fashion. There are even more ladies who have made their mark in various musical genres such as jazz, broadway musicals and pop. Some have become icons because of their far reaching and powerful vocals. Who are these ladies?


Holiday

Madonna

Born Madonna Louise Ciccone, no one can deny knowing who Madonna is. She has sold over 300 million albums world wide and is considered to be the best selling female recording artiste in history by the Guinness Book of World Records.

She moved to New York in 1977 to pursue a career in modern dance. She released her own self-titled album in 1983, and it spawned the hits Holiday, Like a Virgin and Burning Up. Later hits include Vogue, Into the Groove and Papa Don’t Preach.

She broke into film, receiving good reviews for her performances in Desperately Seeking Susan and Evita. She won a Golden Globe Award for that performance, though other performances stemmed harsher criticism. The versatile lady has ventures in writing children’s books, directing and fashion design.

Indeed, Madonna is known for her fashion sense and being able to keep a youthful appearance. Her music will Live To Tell of her talent and charisma for a long time to come.


Ella FItzgerald in 1940
Ella FItzgerald in 1940 | Source

Dream a little dream of me

No list of influential female singers and musicians would be quite complete without the mention of Ella Fitzgerald. Known as the Queen of Jazz or Lady Ella, she had a vocal range spanning 3 octaves. A notable interpreter of the Great American Songbook, she was known widely for her impeccable diction, pure tone, wonderful improvisational skills and “scat singing” or vocalized wordless singing.

Ella’s 1945 scat improvisation of Flying Home was one of the most influential Jazz records of the decade. No one before her had employed improvisation with such creativity. Her Bebop recording of Oh Lady Be Good was similarly popular and increased her repulation as a jazz vocalist.

Ella was known for her recordings of eight multi album songbook sets. Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter Songbook was released in 1956. The singers and lyricists spotlighted represent the greatest part of the Great American Songbook of which Ella herself was an interpreter. The Ella Fitzgerald sings the Duke Ellington Songbook was the first in which the composer she interpreted accompanied her as she sang.he New York Times wrote in 1996, "These albums were among the first pop records to devote such serious attention to individual songwriters, and they were instrumental in establishing the pop album as a vehicle for serious musical exploration."

When she died, New York TImes Columnist Frank Rich wrote that she performed a “cultural transaction as extraordinary as Elvis's contemporaneous integration of white and African-American soul”. Her singing has certainly made an unforgettable impact on today’s modern jazz.

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The Prayer

Celine Dion

Celine Dion, a Canadian singing icon, came to fame as a teen star in Canada’s French speaking world. Her then manager and future husband Rene Angeli mortgaged her home to finance her first singing record. Her first album, Unison, established her as a pop icon in North America and other parts of the world. She first gained recognition by winning the Yamaha World Popular Song Festival in the 1980s and the Eurovision song contest where she represented Switzerland.

She is clearly one of pop music’s influential voices. In a countdown of the 22 Greatest Voices in Music by Blender Magazine and MTV, she was placed ninth and came in fourth in Cove Magazines list of 100 Outstanding Pop Vocalists. Possessing a 5 Octave vocal range, Dion is a mezzo soprano. She is known for delivering glass like, slightly nasal vibrato free notes. She has stated her influences as Aretha Franklin, the Bee Gees, Carole King and Barbara Streisand, all of whom she would collaborate with.

Her sentimental (some say overly so) hits like Power of Love and The Prayer are have become iconic love songs at weddings and are what she is musically known for. Now performing in Las Vegas, she is working on current albums.


Respect

Aretha Franklin

This versatile lady has certainly become one of the most influential musical icons in the world today, not least because she is an accomplished vocalist and pianist whose genre stretches from gospel and jazz to R&B, pop, rock and funk.

She is known as one of the iconic singers who popularized the soul genre. Her whopping hits in that area include Think, Chain of Fools and her ever popular signature song, Respect.

Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her as one of its 100 greatest singers of all time. She has won 20 grammy awards to date and has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. She became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

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I Finally Found Someone

Barbra Streisand

The singer, writer, actress, film producer and director has won two Academy Awards, eight Grammys, five Emmy Awards and an award from the American Film Institute, making her one of the most prolific entertainers of all time. She has sold more than 140 million albums worldwide and has had 71.5 million shipped in the United States alone. She holds the record for having the most Top Ten Albums in History,

As a singer, she has recorded a range of albums with popular hits such as The Way We Were, Woman In Love (a collaboration with the Bee Gees) and I Finally Found Someone (a collaboration with Brian Adams). She returned to her broadway roots in 1985 by releasing the Broadway Album, with songs from Rogers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Stephen Sondheim. It met with acclaim and won a Grammy Nomination for Album of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year for Streisand. She is known to be pitch perfect on stage, being able to sing a note accurately when it is named.

A consummate actress, her first film in 1968 was a reprise of her broadway hit, Funny Girl in 1968. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film. She released two further musicals, Hello Dolly and On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. She also starred in several screwball comedies like What’s Up Doc and the Main Event. She won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the number, Evergreen. She won an Academy nomination for Best Actress for one of her more famous roles in The Way We Were, starring alongside Robert Redford.

The prolific star has definitely made her mark in entertainment history.

Social Acclaim

Female artists have not only had acclaim for their music, some have earned accolades for the social and philanthropic work they do.


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Joan Baez

An acclaimed folk singer, Joan is a known activist in the field of human rights, peace and environmental justice. She began her career performing in coffee houses and rose to fame performing in the Newport Folk Festival. Her first three albums, Joan Baez, Joan Baez Vol 2 and Joan Baez in Concert all achieved Gold Record Status. She had popular hits like Diamonds in Rust, Farewell Angelina and Love is Just a Four Letter Word. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has recorded songs in six official languages.

She played a vital role in founding the USA’s section of Amnesty International in the 1970s, and has championed various human rights causes, including opposing the death penalty.

Speaking up for various environmental causes, she has spoken up against poverty, joining other activists like Julia “Butterfly” Hill in a tree sit to protest the eviction of farmers in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood. On March 18, 2011, she was honored with the Joan Baez Award by Amnesty International for Outstanding Inspirational Service in the Global Fight for Human Rights.


Conclusion

Some of these women in music have found a place in our memories because of a quirky sense of fashion and style. Many of them have made musical breakthroughs and carved their own niches in the music industry. Yet others have made their mark by simply being themselves. In many ways, they have certainly made a powerful difference.

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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      An article on some of the most influential women in the music industry, whether in terms of fashion, social causes or great musical breakthroughs.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Awesome article about influential women who sing. I love pretty much all you listed and can't help but absolutely adore Lady Gaga, especially after seeing her Thanksgiving special last year with Tony Bennett. She may be a bit off the wall with her outfits, but that program really showcased what a class act she is and how dedicated she is to her family. By the way did you see the picture of her now with her hair dyed a reddish brown? she looks amazing and hope she keeps that look. Have of course voted and shared all over too!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Janine. These women have all made a difference in one way or another. Yup, I caught her recent pic. She looks good!! She's a great dancer, just a bit zany for some. Thanks for commenting,my friend!

    • Jordanwalker39 profile image

      Jordanwalker39 4 years ago from GA

      You forgot that bieber girl... Still a wonderful written and interesting hub. Up she goes.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Fab list, I'm with Janine and share my love for Gaga. I wasn't a little momster in the beginning, but I began to appreciate the women and then her music. I'd add Taylor Swift to my list. She's young, but she's influenced many people along her path of stardom.

    • Jordanwalker39 profile image

      Jordanwalker39 4 years ago from GA

      Taylor Swift! The other day I was riding in my truck listening to my favorite country station just driving with the radio up. I come to a stop light and look over at the two dudes are looking at me, at first I get kinda defensive like what are you staring at? Then I realize that I am blasting Swifts new song we are never getting back together! no wonder I was getting odd looks haha.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Jordan!! LOL, will remember to add her in. Thanks for the compliment!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Ah, forgot Taylor as a newer star who has touched the world. Thanks for the reminder!! Will add her to the hub. Gaga's a bit controversial, but a star nonetheless. I had "ra a a" going through my head as I wrote this! Thanks for coming by!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      There are a couple of gal singers here I've never heard of, but a couple of my favorites, too. Lady Gaga is an amazing singer (and person).

      I enjoyed reading this, and will share. I voted this Hub UP.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Celine Dion has to be the best of those. I have a video of her doing a song the Bee Gees wrote for her on my last hub and I just have never heard anything more beautiful!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks Mary, for coming by! Lady Gaga is a wonderful person, if a bit quirky. Thanks for the votes and share!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I love Celine, Jackie!! And her voice is truly wonderful. Thanks for sharing and coming by!!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You have some definite icons in this listing....love Baez, Franklin, Fitzgerald.....lukewarm on Madonna and Dion......anyway, wonderful job and there is no doubt they were/are all influential.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi BIll, yep, they definitely made waves, quirky or not...some were more outstanding for queer behavior. But influenced anyway! Thanks for coming by!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Michelle, very interesting hub. I am not familiar with some of these women so might try to look at You Tube for more. I think Lady Gaga is a bit of an odd bod what with her meat outfits and what not but she certainly knows how to write great songs!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yup, Lady Gaga does write great songs, Jools, though she is a tad controversial for some! Glad that you've found this interesting...my take on influential women may seem a bit different. Thanks for coming by!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      You have a great list here. These women will go down as musicla icons in history, and they have worked hard to deserve that. I love that we have strong, creative, intelligent women out there showing the world what a real woman can do! Voted up.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Awesome and interesting hub. I'm not familiar with Emilie or Jun but everyone else I'm very familiar with. I also had the awesome privilege of seeing Aretha Franklin when I was younger and she didn't disappoint.

      I'd add Dolly Parton to the list. Even though Taylor Swift has made waves in recent years if it wasn't for Dolly we wouldn't have Reba, Taylor, or Carrie Underwood. Great job!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, Donnah! Women rock. These ones I picked because they've worked hard to hone their craft, some with a non commercial attitude and that's why they are not so popular. Whatever their inclinations, they've made a difference! Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Alecia, yes, not surprised that many are not so familiar with Emilie and Jun...I included them as influential "underground", non commercial artistes. They are not so into self promotion. So happy that you've had the privilege of seeing Franklin!! One of those I'd really like to watch if she came by Singapore. Oh yes, Dolly, who influenced country music!! Thanks for the reminder, will put her in as well!

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

      A wonderful blend of influential women in music....I like that you picked singers from many different generations....that being said.....Barbra Streisand has to be the most influential....she has been a star for almost 50 years.....and for roughly 40 of them she was the Oprah of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and most of the 1990s. I will have to check out Jun Togawa as I am not familiar with her at all....voted up and very interesting.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Michelle, a fantastic hub, great tribute to some amazing divas from Such different era, each with their own unique style, all hughly

      influential. Nice work.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      You did a wonderful job here. Not everyone may agree with you. That is okay. Look at this, well thought out, article 10 years from now and understand why I agree with you now.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      This is a wonderful hub midget and I vote across the board(minus funny) plus share onto my FB pages.

      Your obvious hard work has certainly paid off.

      Have a wonderful day.

      Eddy.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Bruce, love the talented Streisand myself. She is pitch perfect! Jun isn't well known as she has a non-commercial attitude to music, just like Autumn. But I included them as they have influenced music in thir own ways. Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, each had their ways, like them or not, Jo. Whatever it is, music isn't the same without them! Thanks for coming by and commenting, my friend!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Got some of my favorites here..Fitzgerald, Baez, Dion..to mention three. Interesting how the dress and stage presence has changed throughout the decades..and of course the public taste in music. I remember when singers just sang!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Ah! Yes. If we compare Baez with Gaga, Carol, I would definitely echo your sentiments about how appearances have changed!! The taste in music has changed drastically...moms of teens and teachers will surely echo that. Whatever it is, these women have clearly made an impact in some way! Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Hatter! Yes. When it comes to such discussions, everyone sees things from a different perspectives. so we cannot always agree. That's ok!! As long as we do so agreeably. Thanks for agreeing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy, for the compliment and sharing. Yes, this one was a little time consuming, but it was a fun write!! Thanks for dropping in!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Great hub on one of my favorite subjects, music. Thanks for sharing your list of influential women in music.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Sherry! Glad that you like this hub!! Thanks for coming by!

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Hi Michelle,

      You have included a very strong well chosen list of musicians here. Ever since i heard Celine Dion in Titanic movie, she has remained a true musician not withstanding that she had to learn to sing in English, Madonna and Lady Gaga too have been very consistence. One common thing will all these stars is their resilient determination to remain relevant to their fans. Great article, voted up, interesting and more...

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, dwachira. Yes, absolutely agreed. Like them or not, one thing we cannot deny is that they are indeed very determined ladies! Thanks for coming by!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Midget, powerful article friend. Women in this age and time have more advantages then ever and rightfully so. We see that they are not only talented, but they are also figures in fashion and business. A supreme list of powerful women and a fantastic job writing in this article. I always liked Lady Gaga cause I felt she always stayed true to herself, both music and fashion. Very talented woman. Celine has a voice of an angel and Madonna is Madonna. Very cool article Midget, really enjoyed this. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared. Best wishes always.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Women are indeed influential and powerful these days. These have somehow made a difference with their various styles! Thanks for coming by!

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      I'm so glad to see all these great icons showing that talent does not come from men alone. I agree with thelyricwriter on his comment and with icons like the ones you listed are making a big difference :) Great job, Michelle!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Keith! Yes, these gals are making a huge difference, in quirky ways or by sheer talent. Like them or not, they're here to stay...because they are who they are! Thanks for coming by!!

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California

      I love diversity in music and you created a very diverse list her. Voted up and shared!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Learn Things Web! Glad you enjoy this list....tried to grab the quirky, the ones with big voices, the unusual....glad that you like it! Thanks for coming by!

    • starlightreflex profile image

      Doug DeWalt 4 years ago from Ohio USA

      My favorites you didn't include are Dolly Parton (awesome businesswoman, author of umpteen million songs) and Carole King, whose quality outweighs quantity of any female musician of the past 50 years.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Noted, starlightfireflex! I know they were influential as well. Will definitely take note and review. Thanks for the comment!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 4 years ago

      You have a great list of the influential ladies, there are a few more greats to add to your list, but that could be part 2! Loved it - thank you. Up, interesting.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      True, Cypbershelly, there are just so many to list! Thanks for sharing, and thanks for coming by! Now that Part 2 is a great idea!

    • vibesites profile image

      vibesites 4 years ago from United States

      Have never heard a couple of singers of your list but still they're interesting to be checked out. Nice hub you've got. Voted up. :)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, vibe sites, and for the follow too! Yes, these are certainly subjective, and interesting too! Thanks for sharing!

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Nice hub here!! Barbra Streisand is my favorite.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Pinkchic!

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      jereeee 4 years ago

      Madonna for me is the greatest.. Wow! what an impact! what an ICON!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, jerseee! True. Madonna is THE icon.

    • PaoloJpm profile image

      John Paolo B.Magdaluyo 3 years ago from Philippine

      Glad you included Gaga in your list. She is truly a wonderful, loving, talented and respecting type of woman. What she do are all for a difference. Difference within individuality's identity, music,fashion and technology.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, PaoloJpm! Yes, she's known for being a great person. Thanks for sharing!

    • oldiesmusic profile image

      oldiesmusic 3 years ago from United States

      I love women singers, they rock! I've got to know the other two (Emilie Autumn and Jun Togawa), I've never heard of them before. Kudos to you midget, great article! :)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing oldiesmusic!

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      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I have always admired Fitzgerald among women who sing with passion and purpose. Many you list here have incredible talent and have made a difference for women everywhere.

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      Julia M S Pearce 2 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Some beautiful and strong women here with beautiful voices.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Dianna!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, jmsp206!

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