Vinyl Junkies Making Mixtapes – Women Who Can “Really” Sing

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Vinyl Junkies Making Mixtapes – Women Who Can Sing (Really)

1. Karen Dalton – Little Bit of Rain, First Track (1969)

Although Dalton didn’t write her own songs, Fred Neil actually writing this one, she did do her own adaptions of them.

Dalton quickly became entrenched in the Greenwich Village folk musical scene of the 1960s. She played alongside big names of the time, including Bob Dylan (who occasionally backed her up on harmonica) [7]Fred Neil, Richard Tucker, and Tim Hardin [5]. She covered many of their songs in her own performances and was among the first to sing Hardin’s “Reason to Believe.” She later married Tucker, with whom she sometimes played with as a duo, and in a trio with Hardin.

While Dalton was a regular at famous folk venue, Café Wha? and performed at benefit concerts for civil rights groups [9], she was a reluctant performer and refused to perform her own songs. [8] Combined with her use of alcohol and heroin, recording her music and touring was particularly hard.

Dalton was “not interested in playing the music industry’s games in an era when musicians had little other choice,” bass player and producer Harvey Brooks noted [7]. She often responded in anger when producers attempted to change her music while recording.

At first, producer Nik Venet was unsuccessful in recording her first album, It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best (Capitol, 1969). It wasn’t until he invited Fred Neil to a session that they were able to come away with recordings. And even then Venet and Neil were only successful by tricking Dalton into thinking the tape wasn’t rolling [5]. Dalton cut most of the tracks with one take, as well as all in one night [10]. The record features songs from Neil, Hardin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Eddie Floyd & Booker T. Jones

According to the biographical quotes and notes at the beginning of Karen Dalton: Songs, Poems, and Writings, Dalton was struggling with drugs and was HIV positive in the 1980s. The combination made her “fragile as a wisp.” Still, she commuted to the city, “worked at low pay jobs, and struggled to stay alive.” 

Commercial failure of her album In My Own Time and her estrangement with her children contributed to further substance abuse later in Dalton’s life [5]. Friend Lacy J. Dalton helped send her to rehab in Texas in the early 1990s; a stay which only lasted a couple of days before she demanded to be taken back home to Woodstock again.

Dalton lived in rural Colorado with her husband Richard Tucker and daughter Abralyn during some years in the 1960s, in a small mining cabin in Summerville [8]. Eventually she moved back to New York via LA, and later to Woodstock. Her last resort was a mobile home located in a clearing off Eagle’s Nest Road, outside the town of Hurley, near Woodstock, New York [15]. She died there in March 1993 from an AIDS-related illness at age 55. According to her friend Peter Walker, she had been living with the disease for over 8 years [10].

2. Joni Mitchell – California, (1971)

 In this song, Mitchell longs to return to her beloved California. She sings as though she’s been on a long journey – and indeed, she has. After a tough breakup with her longtime boyfriend Graham Nash, Mitchell hoofed her way across Europe. It was during that journey when Mitchell penned many of the songs on her Blue album, which was inspired by the jazz style of Miles Davis.

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are huge Joni Mitchell fans. The Led Zeppelin song “Going To California” is actually influenced by this track. When Plant performed this song live he  would often change the line of “she plays guitar & sings” to “Joni.”

Although Mitchell was born in Fort Macleod, Canada, she spent most of her life in Southern California, ultimately having a major influence on her sound. 

Mitchell holds the highest placement ever for a female artist on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, with a ranking of #30  by the Rolling Stones (this is sad to me since this is my favorite mix to date!).

She produced majority of her songs herself, giving clear direction to the (almost) exclusively male studio musicians and technicians she worked with at a time when there were very few prominent female producers. Producers can often help artists find new angles and give constructive feedback, but Mitchell was so sure of what she wanted, she felt no use for one.

3. Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), Hounds of Love (1985)

Bush wrote this with the title “Deal With God,” but her label made her change it because they didn’t think radio stations would play a song with “God” in the title. Bush still regrets letting them rename her song, but her previous album didn’t do very well and she wanted to make sure this got airplay.

Bush explained in a 1985 interview: “It’s about a relationship between a man and a woman. They love each other very much, and the power of the relationship is something that gets in the way. It creates insecurities. It’s saying if the man could be the woman and the woman the man, if they could make a deal with God, to change places, that they’d understand what it’s like to be the other person and perhaps it would clear up misunderstandings. You know, all the little problems; there would be no problem.”

Kate Bush was the first female artist in the UK to have a self composed hit in 1978 with Wuthering Heights. 

Interestingly enough Pink Floyd’s, David Gilmour had much to do with Bush’s success. Ricky Hopper, a family friend with connections to the music business, took her tape of 30 songs to all major record companies, with no success (her music was deemed too morbid and uncommercial). Kate seriously considered a career in psychiatry or social work, while Hopper took the tape to an old friend from Cambridge University, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Gilmour was impressed and by age 15 Kate was recording demos in Gilmour’s home studio. Again, there is no interest from the record companies. Refusing to give up, Gilmour put up the money for a three-song demo done to full professional standards. This did the trick and EMI signed her a short while later. In an unusual move, EMI paid Kate to take a series of lessons to improve her already inventive songwriting as well as singing and dancing. Finally in 1978 “Wuthering Heights” was released and went straight to #1 in the UK. This made her an overnight sensation and sent her subsequent album, The Kick Inside, to #3, selling over 1 million copies in the UK.

4. Vashti Bunyan – Glow Worms,  Just Another Diamond Day (1970)

The album sold very few copies and Bunyan, discouraged, abandoned her musical career. By 2000, her album had acquired a cult following; it was re-released and Bunyan recorded more songs, initiating the second phase of her musical career after a gap of thirty years [4]. She subsequently released two albums: Lookaftering in 2005, and Heartleap in 2014.

At age 18, she traveled to New York and discovered the music of Bob Dylan through his The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album and decided to become a full-time musician [8]. Returning to London, she was discovered by The Rolling Stones‘ manager Andrew Loog Oldham. In June 1965, under his direction, she released her first single, “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind,” penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Released using simply the name Vashti, it was backed with her own song “I Want to Be Alone”. This single and her follow-up “Train Song”, released on Columbia in May 1966, produced by Canadian Peter Snell, received little attention.

The album appeared on Philips Records to warm reviews in December 1970, but struggled to find an audience [12]Disappointed, she left the music industry and moved to The Incredible String Band’s Glen Row cottages, then Ireland, and back to Scotland. Much of the ensuing 30 years were spent raising her three children and in this time, entirely unknown to her, the original album slowly became one of the most sought-after records of its time. It has sold online on Discogs for as much as $3,946.

Stone picked this song, he can tell us why this particular song stood out to him…

5. Enya –  Orinoco Flow (Sail Away), Watermark (1988)

The Orinoco River flows across South America. It is about 1,300 miles long and goes through parts of Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. The song’s title refers to Orinoco Studios in London, where this and the rest of the Watermark album was recorded. It is not known if it was a dual reference to the South American river as well.

This song was Enya’s first hit and she is (born Eithne Patricia Ní Bhraonáin) is one of the most famous artists of the New Age genre. Her music can be described as soothing, with soft, rich vocals, use of a synthesizer, and a Celtic flavor. Since the beginning of her career in the early 1980s, she has released eight studio albums and sold over 75 million copies.

Enya is notable for singing in many different languages. In addition to English, she has sung in her native Irish language dialect, Welsh, French, Latin, and Japanese. She has even sung invented languages, such as Loxian, invented by her producer’s wife Roma Ryan, and those created by fantasy author J. R. R. Tolkein. Enya wrote two songs relating to The Lord of the Rings that were featured in Peter Jackson’s movie, one of which was sung in Sindarin, one of which was sung in Quenya. The latter, titled “May It Be,” was nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award in 2001.

Home for Enya is a large castle built in 1840 next door to Bono’s house. It can be found, just outside Dublin overlooking the coast. Enya renamed the 1840 castle, Manderley, after the one in Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca, her favorite book.

In 2005 two people broke into the Enya’s castle and tied up a maid; Enya fled into panic room where she raised the alarm. Bono later sent her a note joking, “I’d have come over and tackled the stalker, but there was something good on the telly.”

Enya has never gone on a concert tour, despite being Ireland’s best-selling solo artist and second overall behind U2.

6. Trish Keenan of Broadcast – Ominous Cloud, Haha Sound (2003)

English Rock Band

Keenan suffered from stage fright in Broadcast’s early days, and earned a reputation for a “shoegazing onstage introversion.”[33] “I used to get nervous like the whole of that day of the show, and now it only happens the moment I walk onstage,” she later said in a 1998 interview. “When you listen to me sing my first line, you can always tell my heart is in my throat. Headlining gigs is a confidence booster.”

Keenan said that the English rock group “[listens] to alot of soundtracks,[7] and in a 2007 interview, she stated that the group aspired with each album to “make a soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist.[31] In their early years, the band was frequently compared to acts such as Portishead and Stereolab [3]The group’s musical output, according to journalist Mikey Jones, “fused the worlds of pop songcraft and experimentally-minded electronic music into a contemporary blend of psychedelia that resonated deeply with listeners, effectively expanding the conventions of what could be considered psychedelic.”

The band was also known for using samples taken from both library music compilations and real-life field recordings

Keenan died on January 14,  2011 at the age of 42, following complications with pneumonia, which she suffered from after earlier contracting H1N1.

7. Sue Tompkins of Life Without Buildings – Sorrow, Any Other City (2001)

Painter Sue Tompkins (vocals) joined later that year. Sue’s “talk-sung” vocals eventually became the band’s most famous attribute. 

Tompkins had an interesting way of coming to her unique style of work in art school:     “I studied painting. And then by the fourth year at Glasgow School of Art, I remember really thinking, I really don’t know what to paint. I really have no idea. I just don’t know what I’m doing. There was a patch where I remember thinking, god, I just want to go and sit in the library and look at stuff. I was really into looking at art. I really liked looking at art books. So my degree show ended up being this big tissue paper installation, really quite big on the wall. I used to go the library and they had these little rooms that you could book. And I used to just book a room and take a massive stack of books off the shelves, really random, but everything I liked – it could be Frieze magazine or Artforum or it could be Picasso’s greatest hits. I would go into this little room and I had a dictaphone and I used to just record myself looking.”

Spin magazine described Tompkins’ vocals as “nervously chirped evocative phrases” and credited her as the band’s central attraction.”

The British artist uses a typewriter to deliberately space and cull together phrases like, “Can we,” “Get born out,” and “Come on.” Through repetition and re-contextualization, attention is drawn to what the phrases mean, and more so, what they lack.

She says she truly found her voice and ability to perform while with Life Without Buildings. “I was allowing myself to sing and speak and write for the first time,” she recalls. “I hadn’t really had that much purpose before.” Upon its collapse in 2002, she began performing as a sound- and vocal-based artist on her own.

8. Patti Smith: Gloria – Excelsis Dep, Horses, (1975)

Van Morrison originally wrote a song called “Gloria,” released in 1964 by Morrison’s band Them, on their album The Angry Young Them. The Catholic church also has a hymn called “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” also known as the Greater Doxology – it’s part of both Byzantine and Roman rites and has been since the 2nd or 3rd century. So we come to this song, where Patti Smith is covering Van Morrison’s “Gloria” but giving it the Catholic hymn name. 

Patti Smith was clearly aiming for deliberate sacrilege and shock value with the title – the opening lines “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” are one of the seminal protopunk lyrics. John Cale of Velvet Underground produced this album.

The origin of the Horses album lies in the inception of a poem Patti Smith wrote called “Oath” when she was around 20. It began, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.” She explained to Mojo magazine: “It was my statement of independence from being fettered by any particular religious institution, not any statement against Jesus Christ. That’s the start of my evolution as a young person that got me to Horses.”

Smith had a long and intimate relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, who became a renowned photographer famous for his provocative works. The two were lovers long before either was famous; when Mapplethorpe realized he was gay, they kept their bond in a platonic fashion. When Mapplethorpe was dying of AIDS in 1989, he asked Smith to tell their story. It took her 21 years, but she did, publishing their tale in the book Just Kids, released in 2010. -he photograph cover of Horses Album.

Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 because of her contributions to the punk rock movement and for her outsized influence on other musicians and songwriters.

9. Annie Lennox of Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again, Touch, (1983)

This was recorded in an old church that was converted into a studio, except the studio wasn’t finished yet and they brought in the orchestra anyway. About 30 string players had to improvise by playing in corridors and even the toilet. The song was mixed by blending the orchestra on top of electronic sounds, which was created by a sequencer and drum machine.

Stewart and Lennox were a couple while they were bandmates in a group called The Tourists from 1977-1980. Soon after forming Eurythmics in 1980, they split up, but continued making music together. Many of their early songs express the complex feelings that come with being in such close proximity to your ex-lover.

Lennox is one of the most popular British female artists of all time. Including her work with Eurythmics, she’s sold over 80 million albums worldwide. Lennox’s vocal range is contralto, which is the lowest vocal range in the female voice.

In addition to her career as a musician, Lennox is also a political and social activist, notable for raising money and awareness for HIV/ AIDS as it affects women and children in Africa.

10. Cat Power – Colors And The Kids, Moon Pix, (1998)

American singer-songwriter, musician, occasional actress, and model, Cat Power was originally the name of Marshall’s first band, but has become her stage name as a solo artist.

Marshall’s releases as Cat Power have frequently been noted by critics for their somber, blues-influenced instrumentation and melancholy lyrics, leading LA Weekly to dub her the “queen of sadcore [2].” Marshall, however, claims her music is often misinterpreted, and that many of her songs are “not sad, [but] triumphant [82] She has recounted blues, old soul music, British rock ‘n’ roll, as well as hymns and gospel music as being integral influences on her.

Always forthcoming about her struggles with substance abuse, nerves and mental health, Ms. Marshall is also adamant that her reputation as a train wreck is overstated, noting that it is “very easy for spectacle to be projected onto me as a female.”

“I was never an alcoholic,” she explained at the Soho Beach House bar as she ordered her first of two tequila drinks for the afternoon. “When I got really sick from drinking so much, I thought I was. But after doing years of therapy and understanding things about myself, I realized I was suffering from extreme depression.”

She had issues with Matador Record label and they rejected her Wanderer Album as they stated they needed hits..they basically played her Adele and told her that this is what an album should sound like said she did not alter the music after the label change, but did add a track: “Woman,” featuring Lana Del Rey, which in many ways became the defiant, upbeat centerpiece of an understated album, beginning with a folky, pointed lament.

The track despite what Matador Records thought got 1 million Youtube views in one month.

11. Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ Bout A Revolution, (1988)

Chapman maintains a strong separation between her personal and professional life[26]. [2] “I have a public life that’s my work life and I have my personal life,” she said. “In some ways, the decision to keep the two things separate relates to the work I do.” 

Internationally, this single was a big hit, reaching the Top 40 in several countries, including France and New Zealand, becoming a classic in Chapman’s song repertoire [2]. The song received heavy radio play in Tunisia in 2011 during the Tunisian Revolution[3]. [4] The song has also been used as an unofficial theme for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders‘ 2016 presidential campaign. This song played before speeches at campaign rallies.

While attending Tufts University in Massachusetts, studying anthropology and African studies, Chapman began writing music and performing in Boston, and recorded songs at the local WMFO radio station.

Outside of her musical career, Chapman has long worked as an activist, speaking and performing on behalf of several nonprofit organizations, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Circle of Life (no longer active). During a 2003 event to benefit Circle of Life, Chapman performed a memorable duet with Bonnie Raitt, of the John Prine song “Angel From Montgomery.”

12. Angel Olsen – Tiniest Lights, Strange Cacti (2014)

After releasing her first EPStrange Cacti[10], and a debut album, Half Way Home,[11] on Bathetic Records, Olsen signed with Jagjaguwar[12], ahead of her first full-band record, Burn Your Fire for No Witness,[13] which was released on February 17, 2014 [14]. [15] The closing track of the album, Windows, was featured in the final episode of the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why.

Her fourth album, All Mirrors is a departure from her indie rock sensibilities of albums past, but that wasn’t always the plan. The songs were initially recorded as sparse and stripped-down numbers — in the style of Bruce Springsteen‘s Nebraska. Then, Olsen went the other way, and the songs grew as she worked with a different group of musicians. The results are spectacular. All Mirrors is a lush and big album, with strings and keyboards doing a lot of the heavy lifting — an inverse version of the Nebraska situation.

In this session, Olsen talks about finding a place for those strings, why she was surprised to hear the album was being played at fancy restaurants and what her favorite song is on the album — at least at this moment. Hear all that and more in the audio player above.

13. Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner, Solitude Standing (1987)

This is an a cappella song that became a hit in 1990 when the British production duo DNA added a beat and released the remix as a bootleg. The contrast between Vega’s subtle vocal and the driving dance rhythm meshed unexpectedly well. Of course, DNA didn’t ask Vega’s permission, and when Suzanne first heard it, she said she wasn’t sure whether she should sue them or congratulate them. She decided against litigation and her record company, A&M, proving that sometimes there’s more to be gained without filing a lawsuit, officially released the remix along with other bootleg recordings that had emerged, including one with a German disco flavor and another with a reggae beat.

Suzanne Vega was born in Santa Monica, California, but grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side of New York City.

When German computer programmer Karlheinz Brandenburg was developing the technology that would come to be known as the MP3, he found that Suzanne Vega’s voice was the perfect template with which to test the purity of the audio compression that he was aiming to perfect. As a result, the MP3 format’s voice compression was specifically calibrated to sound good when playing “Tom’s Diner.” Because of this, Vega has been referred to as the “Mother of the MP3.”

14. Sophie B. Hawkins – Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover, (1992)

This is far from your typical pop song. It finds Hawkins yearning to set someone free and become that person’s lover. A careful listen reveals that this person is a woman, and likely one who is being abused or neglected by a man. Hawkins, who wrote the song, sings about freeing her mind and easing her pain, and she makes it clear that her intentions are erotic.

Most listeners didn’t pick up on the same-sex relationship Hawkins was singing about, but to the LGBT audience, it was clear. This was a pretty big deal because it was the first hit song so explicitly dealing with lesbian love. Melissa Etheridge, who came out the year after this song was released, kept her songs gender-neutral, and it wasn’t until 1994 when she had a hit where she sang about being in love with another woman

Hawkins came up with the chords for this song in a happy accident when her hand slipped on the piano. “That was the mistake I was looking for,” she told Songfacts. “I almost shivered because I thought, Now this is the big song you’ve been waiting for. There was this strange sense. It was like something big was coming. You’ve never been able to do it before and now you have to do it. It was like a baby coming out. Now that I’ve had a child, I can sense it was like the feeling that you may not be able to do it or that it may go badly – just an indescribable fear – but also knowing that you can’t do anything about it.”

Once she had the chords, the opening line popped out: “That old dog has chained you up alright.” The first verse quickly followed.

15. Fiona Apple – Shadowboxer, Tidal, (1996)

“Shadowboxer” was Apple’s first single. Released ahead of her debut album, Tidal, it’s a good representation of her sound, with a piano-and-strings arrangement framing her jazz-inflected vocal. Listeners were shocked to learn that Apple was just 18 years old – her lyrics and musical sensibilities indicated she had many more miles on her.

Her label, Work (a division of Sony), knew she was a rare talent and pushed the song, but it was a tough sell: “Shadowboxer” runs 5:24 and doesn’t have the big hooks that appeal to fans of pop music. Also, the video (directed by Jim Gable), was bare-bones black-and-white, more suited to VH1 than MTV. The song got some airplay on Adult Contemporary radio, but Apple’s true appeal was to a younger audience that could absorb her pain. Most listeners found Apple through her song “Criminal,” which came with a controversial video that earned her lots of airplay on MTV.

Apple was well known for her rebellious and angst-driven sound. However, her attitude carried over into her profession in other ways. During her acceptance speech at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, Apple said, “This world is bulls–t, and you shouldn’t model your life on what we think is cool, and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying.” Critics and the media were harsh of Apple’s candor, stating that she was unappreciative of her award and success.

16. Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde – Joey, Bloodletting (1990)

This song is about being in love with an alcoholic. Concrete Blonde lead singer Johnette Napolitano wrote it about Marc Moreland of the band Wall Of Voodoo – the bands played many of the same Los Angeles venues in the ’80s. Moreland died of liver failure in 2002; Napolitano discussed Moreland and writing the song about him in a concert known as the “D.C. Sessions.” 

Speaking to us in a 2013 interview, Johnette Napolitano said that she “didn’t set out to play bass.” However as the band “couldn’t keep a bass player,” she had to learn the instrument. “It was hard to play,” she added. “I’ve been playing guitar since I was nine years old, but it was really hard to learn to play bass and sing at the same time. It’s a whole different patient, you know. You sing in a different place in the measure than you do when you’re playing a straight beat. It’s just a thing you have to learn.”

The group still refused to serve the musical tastes of a wider audience, and they ended up on independent labels. These days, their artistic credibility is unquestioned, but at the time, they took some criticism for daring to have a hit song. Napolitano addressed this in a 1993 interview with Happening when she said: “People call that song a ‘sell-out’ only because it sold records. If I could intentionally write a Top 40 song, don’t you think I would have done it on the first album?”

17. Margo Timmons of Cowboy Junkies – Misguided Angel, Trinity Sessions (1988)

Younger Sister of Michael Timmons, bands lead guitarist….said she was highly influenced by her brother Michael’s extensive record collection.[5] Some of her early favourites that influence her to this day include: Blonde on BlondeHighway 61 Revisited, and Nashville Skyline, by Bob DylanNebraska by Bruce SpringsteenHarvest by Neil Young, and Townes Van Zandt‘s, Flyin’ Shoes.

In 1985, her brother Michael recruited Margo as the vocalist for Cowboy Junkies even though she had never sung publicly before.[2] Initially Margo would not sing in front of the other band members, she would only sing in front of Michael. Eventually, Michael convinced Margo to sing in front of the other band members and they liked her performance [9].

Margo Timmins has said about that time, “So when he asked me I was freaked out, but I said ‘Okay, so long as if I don’t do a good job you fire me’ I didn’t want to hurt his music, because his music is so important to him.”[10] It took a long time for her to get comfortable singing in front of an audience. In fact, many of the early shows had Margo singing with her back to the audience [11].

While Timmins has stated that it took her ten years to get comfortable singing in front of an audience, and suffers from stage fright.

According to the BBC, Reed himself called the Canadian band’s 1988 version of Sweet Jane “the best and most authentic version I have ever heard.” It’s a funny word, “authentic,” considering the feel of their version was far from the rockin’ version of Reed’s Underground original. 

18. Roberta Flack – First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, First Take (1972)

This was the breakout hit for Roberta Flack; it was #1 in the US for six weeks. Flack had released two solo albums without commercial success, as her blend of jazz and folk styles struggled to find an audience.

This was used in the 1972 Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty For Me, which gave a great deal of exposure to the mostly unknown Flack.

Roberta Flack has always held two souls within her body. From her childhood days onward, she was herself, the daughter of a draftsman and a church choir organist who learned to play music at her mother’s knee. This Roberta strove to understand both Chopin and Methodist hymnody and was precocious enough to gain admission to Howard University at 15. She was a shy, awkward, diligent girl with her nose always in a book and fingers tired from practicing piano scales.

Quoted in NPR article: Flack’s insistence on governing her recording sessions recalls the similar determination of Joni Mitchell, whose career parallels hers in many ways, though they’re not often historically associated. (They did share in one big musical moment: Both appeared as part of Bob Dylan’s mid-1970s Rolling Thunder Revue.) Like Mitchell — born, coincidentally, Roberta Joan Anderson — Flack singularly avoided genre categorization; also like her, she was a master at connecting with her listeners in ways that felt transformative. Reviews of early Flack shows resemble the gushes aimed at Mitchell in those years. “Visually, when she starts off she isn’t beautiful and she isn’t anything more than a very good singer, but by the end of the evening she is just the most incredible woman you have ever seen,” wrote Vicki Wickham, a journalist who also managed artists like Dusty Springfield and Labelle, wrote of a 1971 Flack concert.

19. Gayle McCormick of Smith – Baby It’s You, A Group Called Smith (1969)

Initially McCormick was not in the band, but when the band did not succeed, McCormick, who had started her career singing songs by Tina TurnerEtta James and others, was added as a front woman and lead vocalist. The group was then discovered by 1960s rocker Del Shannon in a nightclub in Los Angeles.[2] Shannon arranged “Baby It’s You” for the group and got them signed to the ABC-Dunhill label.

Sadly, when her eponymous debut set, Gayle McCormick couldn’t sustain more than a week in the Top 200, Dunhill-ABC could no longer see her attraction. As her minor-hit cover of Smokey Robinson’s, `You Really Got A Hold On Me’ faded from the Top 100, and memories of her versions of `Rescue Me’ (a hit for Fontella Bass) and Bodie Chandler’s `Everything Has Got To Be Free,’ it was time for Gayle to move in other directions.

The song was written by Burt Bacharach and done by The Shirelles, The Beatles, we also have a version done by Nick Lowe & Elvis Costello. This is by far my favorite version.

20. Aretha Franklin – You make me feel like a natural woman, Lady Soul, (1967)

Written by my favorite female songwriter Carole King, which makes this a double wammy since it is also sang by the Queen of Soul, need I say more…

When Aretha Franklin performed this song in tribute to Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, she brought the house down, wowing King and the many luminaries present, including Barack and Michelle Obama. The crowd rose to its feet when Franklin shed her fur coat to belt out the end of the song.

In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and by 2008, she was voted Greatest Singer Of All Time by the musicians and journalists selected by Rolling Stone magazine to name their favorite singers of the Rock era. Following Aretha were Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and John Lennon.

Franklin recorded 112 charted singles on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries, 17 top-ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries, and 20 number-one R&B singles. She is the most charted female artist in history.