Last week we highlighted five amazing women throughout music history. Well, with National Women’s History Month still in effect, we thought we’d feature yet another five influential women in the music industry. This week’s picks include Pat Benetar, Loretta Lynn, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Lady Gaga.
American singer and songwriter Pat Benatar was a rock icon during the 1980s. With four Grammy Awards under belt, 15 Billboard Top 40 singles, and numerous multiplatinum, and platinum albums, it’s easy to see that Pat was a legendary performer. A former student of the prestigious Julliard School in New York City, Benatar was classically trained, but despite her education her ultimate dream was to perform in a rock band. In her memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Benatar wrote:
“My dream was to be the singer in a rockin' band, like Robert Plant was to Led Zeppelin or Lou Gramm to Foreigner…I wanted a partnership, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had, an unrelenting back-and-forth between talented musicians. The sound I heard in my head was raucous, with hard-driving guitars speeding everything forward. I was a classically trained singer with a great deal of musical knowledge, but I had no idea how to make that visceral, intense sound happen. I had to evolve, but I didn't know how to make that evolution happen.”
It was a dream that Benatar refused to give up on, and we’re so glad she didn’t. With chart topping hits like “Heartbreaker,” “I Need a Lover,” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Benatar and her music will be keeping us rocking through the ages.
Fearless and headstrong, Loretta Lynn entered the Nashville scene with a point to make and a song to sing. From the beginning Lynn was a force masked by innocence and extreme talent. The daughter of a coal miner, Lynn grew up poor and shielded from the world inside her Appalachian holler. Thanks to the persistence of her husband Oliver”Doolittle” she learned how to play the guitar and wrote music about the life she lived. She says, “I just wrote about things that happened. I was writing things that nobody talked about in public, and I didn’t realize that they didn’t. I was having babies and staying at home. I was writing about life. That’s why I had songs banned.”
She may have gotten some songs banned, but that didn’t stop her from speaking/singing what was on her mind. In her songs Lynn proved her refusal to be anyone’s door mat, such as in “Your Squaw Is on the War Path” and she didn’t leave the women out of her reprimands as in “You Ain’t Woman Enough.”
A record breaker, Whitney Houston is the only artist to have earned seven consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. Known for hit songs like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and her iconic cover of Dolly’ Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” Houston is known for her strong vocal range and definitive stage presence.
With family history tying the Houstons to music legends such as Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley, it’s no wonder that Whitney would soon carve out her own fame within the industry. Her earliest recordings in New York included big names such as Chaka Khan and the Neville Brothers. Her first album release under Clive Davis released in 1985 sold over 13 million copies in the US and worldwide and resulted in 3 consecutive #1 singles.
Civil rights activist and award-winning American singer and songwriter, Aretha Franklin began her vocal career singing gospel at her local church in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of a minister, the soulful singer eventually went on to perform secular music under Columbia records, then later Atlantic Records. Under Atlantic she garnered national attention with it songs like “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” and “I Say a Little Prayer. As her career continued to flourish in the 1960s Aretha soon earned her nickname as the “Queen of Soul.”
Franklin was inducted as the first female performer in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and later inducted in the UK Music Hall of fame in 2005, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. She also received recognition as one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine and in 2019 she was awarded a Pulitzer prize posthumously “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.”
Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Lady Gaga is known for her avant garde approach to music and visual performance. A former Tisch School of Arts student, Gaga left her academic career for her music. Her big break came in 2007 when she released The Fame resulting in chart topping singles like “Just Dance,” and “Poker Face.” With her music career in full swing Gaga began to expand her career options and tried her hand in acting. Her efforts were successful with the acceptance of a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance in the hit mini-series American Horror Story: Hotel. Her role in the critically acclaimed film, A Star is Born, and her contribution to the move’s soundtrack helped her become the first woman to win an Academy Award, a Grammy, BAFTA, and Golden Globe award within a single year.
With over 124 million records sold, Gaga is noted as one of the world’s best-selling artists, and as of 2010 she is ranked as the fourth highest earning female artist in the industry. Her long list of achievements include awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 12 Grammy Awards, and some Guinness World Records. Times noted Gaga as one of the most influential people of the decade in 2011 and VH1 echoed the sentiment in their Greatest Women in music the following year.
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