When you think of soul music, names such as Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and the like come up. But, come on, where would soul be without those women singers? Some of the biggest hits that brought R&B soul into the mainstream limelight, and stirred the biggest passions within the listeners, were from women. All women could relate to the troubled times of early soul female artist and the artist reflected these times from the Vietnam War to the mere struggles of a women in the world.
The early blues singer paved the way for all later female vocalists. Numerous R&B female artists have made a strong impact in the music industry and set the stage for many more such as Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner.
What piece on the Great Women of Soul Music would be complete without the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin? Aretha Franklin (born March 25th, 1942) began her R&B Soul path as a child singing gospel music in her childhood church. She was considered a child prodigy. The influence of the gospel music she grew up singing was undoubtedly a prime influence on her later soul music career.
Ms Franklin has 20 number one rhythm and blues hits to her name. She is known as one of the most honored by the Grammy Awards, as well as being the recipient of a Living Legends Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award. Aretha Franklin also belted out her sultry voice as recently as the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America – Barack Obama.
Though she is known more recently as a soloist, Anna Marie Bullock (Tina Turner) is known yet another great soul performer, along with her ex-husband Ike Turner. While still in high school, Bullock would go with her sister to area nightclubs and through much prodding by her sister, Bullock auditioned for Ike Turner and became a part of Turner’s R&B soul band as an occasional vocalist with the Kings of Rhythm at his club. This was the stepping-stone for Bullocks, at the age of 18, career in R&B. Bullock went on to marry Ike Turner and changed her name to Tina Turner.
Her first opportunity in mainstream Soul music came in 1960 when the singer scheduled to sing “A Fool in Love”, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine”, “I Idolize You”, and the groundbreaking “River Deep, Mountain High” didn’t show for the recording. Young Tina was chosen to record it instead. However, her most memorable hit was a cover of CCR’s “Proud Mary.”
Some other fantastic female R&B soul singers are Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Patti Austin, Barbara Mason, Martha and The Vandellas, Denise Williams, and so many more. Many of these strong female artists started from simpler and harder lives yet through it all, they overcame all obstacles, prevailing with grace, and known now as some of the best female rhythm and blues vocalist to date.