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Let's Fight: These Are The Top 20 Women Vocalists Of All Time

This list was no easy thing to make; there have been countless talented women in music who have changed the game as vocalists.

Over the weekend, I asked my followers on Twitter to list their top 20 woman-identified vocalists, across genres, of all time. That tweet received well over 200 replies with names like Phyllis Hyman and Ella Fitzgerald, to Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, to… Ariana Grande and Adele (please do read those two names with the judgment with which I typed them).

I am a trained musician and singer who also grew up in the Black Church, which really just means that I have been surrounded by very talented vocalists and musicians my entire life. For this reason, music has remained a passion of mine and a topic that I am almost always willing to engage with. It is also for this reason that I can say many of the names people listed truly did not belong on the list.

So here is the criteria for my list, followed by my actual list. This list was no easy thing to make; there have been countless talented women in music who have changed the game with their vocals. For me, what qualifies one to be on a ‘greatest of all time’ list of vocalists is:

  • Technique – control, timbre, phrasing and stamina, balance, support, posture, diction, etc.
  • Vocal prowess – power, tone, style, technique.
  • Conviction – emote, connect, sustain, perform.
  • Longevity – the ability to make outstanding music with great vocals for a long period of time, which leads me to,
  • Care – treating the voice as the instrument that it is that must be cared for.

All these considered, everyone on my list meets all or most of these requirements. And what they may lack in one area, they make up for ten times over in every other area.

The Greatest Women Vocalists of ALL TIME:
1. Ella Fitzgerald
2. Mahalia Jackson
3. Sarah Vaughan
4. Audra McDonald
5. Aretha Franklin
6. Whitney Houston
7. Mariah Carey
8. Yolanda Adams
9. Rachelle Ferrell
10. Barbara Streisand
11. Lalah Hathaway
12. Nina Simone
13. Beyoncé Knowles
14. Anita Baker
15. Brandy Norwood
16. Fantasia Barrino
17. Jazmine Sullivan
18. Jill Scott
19. Toni Braxton
20. Donna Summer
Honorable (and necessary!) mentions:
Phyllis Hyman
Jennifer Hudson

Da’Shaun Harrison is a nonbinary abolitionist and organizer in Atlanta, GA. They write and speak publicly on race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, disabilities, fatness, and the intersection at which they all meet. Harrison is the author of the forthcoming book, “Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness,” which is expected to be published in July 2021. Their portfolio and other work can be found on their site: dashaunharrison.com.

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