Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Top 60 female singer/songwriters ....

Our "Daily Telegraph" compiled a list of the top 60 (that many?) female singer/songwriters and I was pleased to see Joni Mitchell came out on top ....

1: Joni Mitchell. Canadian Roberta Joan Anderson (aka Joni Mitchell) began her career busking in Toronto but went on to become one of the leading figures in folk music in the Sixties and Seventies. For her pure vocals and thoughtful lyrics, which range from socially conscious to deeply confessional, Mitchell is seen as one of the voices of her generation. Her 1971 album BLUE often ranks well on lists of the greatest albums of all time.

The others? In order from Nr 2 onwards:

Kate Bush / Patti Smith / Dolly Parton / Carole King / Kirsty MacColl / Chrissie Hynde / Nina Simone / Adele / Amy Winehouse / Bjork / Janis Joplin / Madonna

14: Peggy Lee. Arguably America's first female singer-songwriter, Peggy Lee entered the public consciousness at a time when it was highly unusual for commercial singers to write their own material. Born into a poor North Dakota family in 1920, Lee began her career at a local radio station, where she sang in exchange for food. She would collaborate on original songs with Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones, but is best known for her equally inventive cover-versions. Lee heavily rewrote Little Willie John's hit song, Fever; her lyrics are now more famous than those of the original. Lee later wrote the co-songs for Disney's The Lady and the Tramp. With her blonde hair and outspoken manner, "Miss Peggy" was reportedly the inspiration for The Muppet Show's Miss Piggy.

Stevie Nicks / Taylor Swift / Sandy Denny / Lady Gaga / Barbra Streisand / P J Harvey / Edith Piaf /

22: Joan Armatrading. Born in Saint Kitts in the Caribbean, 64-year-old guitarist and singer Joan Armatrading moved to Birmingham with her family when she was three. She left school at 15 and was sacked from her first job at a tool manufacture for playing her guitar during tea breaks. Armatrading released her first album in 1972, and went on to have hits in the Seventies by blending jazz and folk, and in the Eighties with a more commercial pop sound. She won an Ivor Novello Award for her songwriting in 1996.

Joan Baez / Billie Holliday / Rickie Lee Jones / Loretta Lynn / Debbie Harry / Sinead O'Connor / Kate and Anna McGarrigle / Cyndi Lauper / Carly Simon / Lauryn Hill

33: Aretha Franklin. Soul legend Aretha Franklin began her musical career as a gospel singer in church, and was later taken on tour by her preacher father. The Tennessee native became a star in the Sixties singing jazz and Motown standards. Her 1967 re-working of Otis Redding's Respect - which was adopted as an anthem for change by the civil rights movement - gave her a number one in the US in 1967, and she followed this with further hit singles Chain of Fools and Say A Little Prayer. In the Seventies, Franklin began to write more of her own songs, including Call Me and Rock Steady. The 70-year-old became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Patty Griffin / Lucinda Williams / Tori Amos / Siouxsie Sioux / Tracy Chapman / Regina Spektor / Erykah Badu / Bonnie Raitt / K D Lang /Gillian Welch / Emmylou Harris /  

45: Sade. British-Nigerian singer Helen Folasade Adu is better known as Sade, the lead singer of the Grammy and Brit Award-winning soul, jazz and R&B band of the same name. As the group's chief songwriter, Adu was the driving force behind hit singles Your Love is King and Smooth Operator. The band have sold over 110 million albums worldwide, making Adu one of the most successful British female musicians ever. In 2002, she received an OBE for services to music and dedicated it to "all black women in England".

Roberta Flack / Gretchen Peters / Alicia Keys / Aimee Mann / Dar Williams / Laura Marling / Shania Twain / Ani Difranco / Odetta / Cat Power / Norah Jones / Judee Sill / Beth Orton / KD Tunstall / Sarah McLachlan.

Phew! I know and like most of these of course - ok, there are a few I am not familiar with - but it almost seems a list of 60 female singers, but of course Peggy Lee wrote a lot of songs, and singers like Barbra and Aretha have song-writing credits too.  The only omissions I can think of are Laura NyroJanis Ian and Francoise Hardy. Has Annie Lennox written songs? 


  1. Laura Nyro should definitely be on the list!

  2. Laura Nyro should not only be on the list but in the top five! Michael, I take it you will be buying the current issue of Mojo for its excellent article on Joni and her jazz-influenced albums?

  3. Ah, didnt know of that, ta for the tip.