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Soul Women...Great Female Singers of the Last 100 Years

Updated on May 24, 2015

Power Women

My grandparents loved Mister Kelly's nightclub in Chicago. They drove into the city whenever they could, especially when Sarah Vaughn or Ella Fitzgerald came around. I picture them now from the photographs on the piano, him tall and broad with his fedora tilted down like Midwestern Gregory Peck, her small and trim, dressed to the nines.

This love of soul women seems to run on both sides of our family. Which explains the summer afternoons my sisters and I spent performing concerts to our mother's records, hairbrushes for microphones and the living room sofa as a stage. Mom would laugh and shake her head then invariably be caught up in the madness and start singing too. Our signature performance was Aretha Franklin's "Respect." We each took a letter; R E S P E C T.

When I was older it occurred to me that this love of female power singers was quite out of character for my quiet mother. She hates being in the spotlight yet any time Diana Ross or Carol King comes on the radio her feet start tapping and her soft humming quickly becomes a full on power ballad.

What is it about these women that bring out the amazons in all of us? Their lyrics about cheating men, wasted lives and lost love resonate somehow, even with those of us who have never dealt with those things. They are a call to arms for all woman to band together, stick it out and stick up for each other, for as much as we hate to admit it, in most places it's still a man's world.


My Favorite Songs

  • Think by Aretha Franklin
  • Rescue Me by Fontella Bass
  • You Know I'm No Good by Amy Winehouse
  • Vagabond Shoes by Pearl Bailey
  • Come On by Janis Joplin
  • I'd Rather Go Blind by Etta James
  • Take It All by Adele
  • Landslide by Stevie Nicks
  • Cryin' Mood by Ella Fitzgerald
  • 365 Days by ZZ Ward
  • Mama Said by The Shirelles
  • He Ain't Comin' Home No More by Nina Simone
  • Never Forget You by The Noisettes
  • After You've Gone by Dinah Washington
  • Mercy by Duffy

Some Newer Girl Power Singers

  • Adele
  • Asa
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Duffy
  • Norah Jones
  • The Noisettes
  • Missy Higgins
  • Madeleine Peyroux
  • ZZ Ward
  • Elizaveta
  • Paloma Faith

My Favorite Soul Women

  • Aretha Franklin
  • Peggy Lee
  • Fontella Bass
  • Nina Simone
  • Gladys Knight
  • Etta James
  • Pearl Bailey
  • Janis Joplin
  • Pearl Bailey
  • Ruth Brown
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Dinah Washington
  • Diana Ross
  • Billy Holiday
  • Carol King
  • Nancy Wilson
  • Stevie Nicks

Your Favorite Girl Power Songs

Did I miss any of your favorites?

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    • brownella profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New England

      Thanks GwennyOh, I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

    • GwennyOh profile image


      5 years ago

      You have mentioned many stellar artists with truly incredible talent.

      Thanks for sharing this piece.

    • brownella profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New England

      Thanks :) I still sing along every time I hear Aretha Franklin's "Respect" (usually loudly and not very well)...I guess we all become our mothers. Thanks for reading.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Your well told story brings to mind the pantomines we did as children to all the great hits of the era. Hairbrushes as microphones...what vivid images you create. Loved your selections of soul singers.


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