Women in Music: Trailblazing Female Singers, Songwriters and Musicians
From the vocalists who inspired awe to the songwriters who changed the way we listen to music, we've gone back to highlight the women in music who've impacted the world around them.
From Edna White, the first trumpet player to give a recital at Carnegie Hall, to the legendary Aretha Franklin, these women paved the way for countless others.
We know we can't possibly cover every amazing woman musician, songwriter or singer out there, but if you have a suggestion, feel free to join the conversation using the hashtag #ChangeTheTune.
Edna White | The classical and vaudeville trumpet player, bandleader, and composer was a child prodigy who grew up to lead one of the first successful all-female bands. White was also the first trumpet player to give a recital at Carnegie Hall. Photo Credit: Susan Fleet archive
Maud Powell | Powell was the first American violinist to achieve international rank. Several foundations and music festivals have been founded in her honor and in 2007, violinist Rachel Barton Pine released an album of music transcribed by, commissioned by or dedicated to Maud Powell. Photo Credit: Library of Congress
Delia Derbyshire | In 1959, Derbyshire, a young music school graduate, applied for a studio-recording position with Decca Records. She was denied a job on the grounds that they didn't hire women. Derbyshire wound up at BBC where she came a pioneer in electronic music, tape experiments and field recordings. She created the iconic theme for "Doctor Who." Photo Credit: delia-derbyshire.net
Shirley Collins | The British folksinger contributed significantly to the English Folk Revival of the 1960s and 1970s. Collins' collaborations with Davy Graham (Folk Roots, New Routes) and the Anthems in Eden album are perceived as milestones in the English folk revival today. Photo Credit: Redferns
Patty Waters | The jazz vocalist is best known for her free jazz recordings in the 1960s. Waters' most legendary contribution is the 14-minute take on the traditional folk song "Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair." She was only 19 years old when she recorded it. Patti Smith and Diamanda Galás cite Waters as a major inspiration. Photo Credit: Chuck Stewart
Yoko Ono | Although Ono's historically become blamed for breaking up The Beatles, she was a pioneer of inter-disciplinary art whose screeching vocals and improvised noises influenced musicians including Meredith Monk and Sonic Youth. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Nico | The former model who was tied to artist Andy Warhol and sang with the Velvet Underground created her own distinct music with monotone singing that pushed back on cultural expectations of beauty. Photo Credit: Redferns
Catherine Ribeiro | The French singer confronted the feminine "chanteuse" stereotype with her powerful voice and highly theatrical song-dialogues about folklore, war, politics and gender.
Brigitte Fontaine | The avant-garde singer took various musical styles and blended together rock and roll, folk, jazz, electronica, and spoken word. Her work including 1969's Comme à la Radio and 1977's Vous et Nous Fontaine defied cultural expectations of female musicians. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Billie Holiday | The jazz singer and songwriter had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Although Holiday only co-wrote a few songs, several of them have become jazz standards, notably "God Bless the Child", "Don't Explain", "Fine and Mellow", and "Lady Sings the Blues". Photo Credit: Redferns
Ella Fitzgerald | The "First Lady of Song" or "Lady Ella" had a vocal range spanning three octaves. Critics noted her for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. Over the course of her almost 60-year career, Fitzgerald sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums, won 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Joni Mitchell | Rolling Stone called her "one of the greatest songwriters ever." Mitchell, who is the sole record producer credited on most of her albums, is known for her wide-ranging vocals and distinctive open-tuned guitar and piano compositions accompanied by powerful lyrics. Photo Credit: Redferns
Aretha Franklin | With songs such as "Respect", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "Think", Franklin was easily dubbed "The Queen of Soul" by the end of the 1960s decade. Franklin has won a total of 18 Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling female artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Joan Jett | The feminist rock icon is best known for her work with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and The Runaways. Their hit record "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" was number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 from March 20 to May 1 in 1982. She has three albums that have certified Platinum or Gold. In 2003, Jett was named in the Rolling Stone greatest 100 guitarists of all time. She was one of only two women in this list, the other being Joni Mitchell. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Poly Styrene | Marianne Joan Elliot-Said, known as Poly Styrene, was the British musician most notable for her rock band X-Ray Spex. The band's debut single "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" equated the portrayal of women's images in the media to oppression. Photo Credit: Getty Images
Carole King | The singer and songwriter wrote more than two dozen chart hits for numerous artists, many of which have become standards. Success as a performer came in the 1970s and her breakthrough album "Tapestry" topped the U.S. album chart for 15 weeks in 1971 and remained on the charts for more than six years. She has won four Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her songwriting. Photo Credit: Redferns
Sinéad O'Connor | The singer-songwriter rose to fame in the late 1980s with her debut album "The Lion and the Cobra". She achieved international success in 1990 with a new arrangement of Prince's song "Nothing Compares 2 U". She has produced nine solo albums, many singles, songs for films, and collaborations. Photo Credit: Redferns
Madonna | The music icon is known for continuously reinventing both her music and image over her nearly four decade career. She pushed the boundaries of mainstream popular music and imagery in her music videos and became known as the "Queen of Pop." Photo Credit: NY Daily News via Getty Images
Björk | The Icelandic singer-songwriter has used multi-instrumental talents to create radical experimental pop music with avant-garde elements. Björk has been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards. Photo Credit: WireImage
Kathleen Hanna | The original riot grrrl is best known for her groundbreaking performances as a member of the feminist 90s punk band, Bikini Kill, and her more recent multimedia group, Le Tigre. Along with other feminist punk rockers, Hanna created the fanzine Riot Grrrl, which called for increased feminist activity in the punk rock scene and led to the underground feminist punk rock movement. Hanna currently plays with her band The Julie Ruin. Photo Credit: MAKERS
Whitney Houston | In 2009, the Guinness World Records cited Houston as the most awarded female act of all time. She was an internationally best-selling music artist, selling over 200 million records worldwide. Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts, as well as her prominence on MTV, influenced many African American women artists who follow in her footsteps. Photo Credit: Boston Globe via Getty Images
Alicia Keys | Keys became the best-selling new artist and best-selling R&B artist of 2001 and earned five Grammy Awards in 2002, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year for "Fallin" becoming the second American recording artist to win five Grammys in one night. Her second studio album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys" garnered her an additional four Grammy Awards in 2005. Throughout her career, Keys has won numerous awards and has sold over 65 million records worldwide. Photo Credit: Redferns
Esperanza Spalding | The jazz bassist, cellist and singer draws upon many genres in her own compositions. A child prodigy, at five-years-old Spalding was playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. She has won three Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, making her the first jazz artist to win the award. Photo Credit: Redferns
Madonna | Madonna has been dominating the music industry for decades. She went solo as a pop singer in 1981 and became a a hit in the then male-dominated '80s music scene. By 1991, she had achieved 21 Top 10 hits in the United States and sold more than 70 million albums internationally. In 2015 she made Billboard chart history with the most No.1 hits ever — 45 to be exact. Her number one chart hits started in 1985 with her songs "Angel" and "Into the Groove." Photo Credit: AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti
Born and raised in Washington, Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein started her career in music at The Evergreen State College. It was 1995 when she became the guitarist and vocalist in Sleater-Kinney at the age of 21. And after graduating in 1997, Brownstein would eventually move to Portland, Oregon. However, despite the move, Sleater-Kinney stayed together until the band went on an indefinite hiatus in 2006. And so in 2010, Brownstein took her talents to another band, Wild Flag, which released its debut album in September of 2011. But music has never been Brownstein’s only passion. When she wasn’t playing with her band, Brownstein was writing and acting. Brownstein is now best known for developing the sketch comedy Portlandia with actor Fred Armisen. Brownstein and Armisen both write for and star in Portlandia, which began airing on the Independent Film Channel in January of 2011.