Women have proven to have an everlasting presence that is essential to monumental moments in music. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re diving into a few fun facts about some of the most powerful women in music history.
Aretha Franklin: Being coined a ‘child prodigy’ is a rare honor, and the iconic “Queen of Soul” gained this respect around just ten years of age. Franklin came from a strong line of musical talent – her father was a gospel singer with a “Million-Dollar Voice”, and her mother a skilled pianist and vocalist. Though the gift of music ran in her blood, Franklin didn’t know how to read or write music in the beginning of her career, yet still managed to teach herself how to play the piano. Franklin’s debut album, ‘I Never Loved A Man the Way I Love You’ dominated the charts and quickly went gold. Boasting an extensive list of awards and accomplishments, Aretha Franklin remains a music legend to this day.
Selena: Selena Quintanilla, known as the “Mexican Madonna”, was loved by both the American and Latin communities. Commonly known as just “Selena”, her fans adored her extraordinary voice, exotic dance moves, and iconic fashion. The singer’s career started very young in her family’s band, Selena Y Los Dinos, and though the band sang in Spanish, the “Queen of Tejano Music” learned to sing in Spanish phonetically before learning to speak the language fluently. That’s right, Selena’s native language was English, and now nearly 30 years after her debut, music fans of all languages love and celebrate her life and music.
Amy Winehouse: Powerhouse vocalist, Amy Winehouse, was best known for her sultry songs and perilous lifestyle. Winehouse’s onstage presence was commanding as a solo artist, but she didn’t always think of being a one-woman act. When she was ten years old, Winehouse and a childhood friend formed a hip-hop group called Sweet ‘n’ Sour, directly inspired by the groundbreaking all girl hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa. Little did Amy know that in 2009 she’d be added to the Guinness Book of World Records for Most GRAMMY Awards Won by a British Female Act, all by herself.
Aaliyah: Dubbed R&B’s “Baby Girl”, Aaliyah left an impressionable mark in the world of hip-hop and is still referenced by some of today’s biggest artists such as Drake, Lil’ Wayne, J. Cole, and Kanye West. The songstress, like many others, got her start at ten years old. After losing on the TV show Star Search, Aaliyah got her big break performing in Las Vegas for five nights alongside her aunt, the legendary Gladys Knight. Aaliyah’s uncle, Barry Hankerson, was married to Gladys Knight and this ultimately opened the doors to Aaliyah’s career and massive success.
Janis Joplin: Mix the deep tones of blues and rock-n-roll with a fiery Texan, and you’ve got Janis Joplin. Joplin’s music has a life of its own, as her lyrics and performances showcased her wild spirit and electric soul. Though her talents have influenced the careers of dozens of superstars, she surprisingly had only one #1 hit. “Me and Bobby McGee” hit the number one spot on the Billboard charts in 1971, one year after Joplin’s death. This goes to show that the power of Janis Joplin’s music will continue to live on.
All these women in music have been trailblazers in the industry, and they are certainly not the only ones. The unique elements they incorporated into their sound, lyrics, and performances have inspired not only other female musicians, but those who share an overall passion for music. No matter the genre or decade, women’s accomplishments in music will always remain a key contributor to music history.
“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.” – Aretha Franklin