The HyperTexts

The Best Female Singer/Songwriters of All Time
The All-Time Best Vocal Performances by Women Singer/Songwriters


Who are the best female singer-songwriters of all time? Women are obviously still discriminated against in many industries when it comes to recognition, promotion and equal pay. But surely the music business is more enlightened ... or is it? As I worked on a page of the best rock songs of all time, I consulted the Rolling Stone list of 500 greatest songs and several similar lists, and I came to the conclusion that female singer/songwriters are still being shortchanged. Yes, a few songs by Carole King and Joni Mitchell made the cut, but utterly stellar songs like "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez, "Stoney End" by Laura Nyro, "Thank You" by Dido, and "Love And Affection" by Joan Armatrading were nowhere to be found. So I decided to create my own list. I hope you'll agree with me that the songs below deserve consideration for anyone's "best of" rankings. I can't agree with Rolling Stone that pop-fizzy commercial successes are "greater" than the best songs on this page. The bios and song notes below were taken primarily from the artists' Wikipedia pages, and I do not take credit for them.

compiled by Michael R. Burch

Here is my personal (and therefore subjective) top ten list of the best female singer/songwriters, with a few ties. I have bolded my favorite songs by each artist ...

Who was America’s first female singer-songwriter? Peggy Lee entered the public consciousness at a time when it was highly unusual for commercial singers to write their own material. Born into a poor North Dakota family in 1920, Lee began her career at a local radio station, where she sang in exchange for food. She went on to collaborate on original songs with Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones, but is best known for her inventive cover versions. Lee heavily rewrote Little Willie John’s hit song "Fever" and her lyrics are now more famous than those of the original. Lee later wrote the co-songs for Disney’s "The Lady and the Tramp." She is also known for writing and performing classic songs like "He's a Tramp," "Big Spender" and "Hallelujah I Love Him So." With her extravagant blonde hair and outspoken manner, “Miss Peggy” was reportedly the inspiration for The Muppet Show’s Miss Piggy!

Music Trivia: Ironically, Carole King is the Queen of the American female songwriters!

(#10) Mariah Carey: Vision of Love, Love Takes Time, I Don't Wanna Cry, One Sweet Day, Hero, Someday, Fantasy, Loverboy, Dreamlover, Without You
          Matraca Berg: Strawberry Wine, I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today, I'm That Kind of Girl, The Last One to Know, Faking Love, Wild Angels, Everybody Knows, Wrong Side of Memphis, You and Tequila
  (#9) Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart: Dreamboat Annie, Straight On, Barracuda, Crazy On You, Magic Man, Never, Heartless, Dog And Butterfly, Even It Up
          Joni Mitchell: Woodstock, Help Me, Both Sides Now, Big Yellow Taxi, Free Man In Paris, River, Blue, Chelsea Morning, You Turn Me On
  (#8) Christine McVie: As Long As You Follow, The Chain, Don't Stop, Hold Me, Over My Head, Say You Love Me, Songbird, Little Lies, Think About Me
  (#7) Carly Simon: You're So Vain, Let The River Run, Anticipation, You Belong To Me, That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be (We'll Marry)
         Alanis Morissette: Ironic, You Learn, You Oughta Know, Uninvited, Hand In My Pocket, Thank U, Unsent, Hands Clean, Head Over Feet
  (#6) Dido: Thank You, White Flag, Here With Me, Stan, Life For Rent, Sand In My Shoes, Hunter, End of Night, Blackbird, Don't Leave Home
         Cyndi Lauper: Time After Time, Change of Heart, Hatful Of Stars, Who Let In The Rain, Good Enough, True Colors, Sisters of Avalon, She Bop
         Sade: Smooth Operator, Your Love Is King, No Ordinary Love, The Sweetest Taboo, Soldier of Love, Kiss of Life, By Your Side
  (#5) Stevie Nicks: Landslide, The Chain, Dreams, Rhiannon, Gypsy, Sara, Gold Dust Woman, Stand Back, Leather And Lace, Edge Of Seventeen, If Anyone Falls, Nightbird, Love in Store, Say You Will
         Annie Lennox: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Why, Walking On Broken Glass, There Must Be An Angel, Missionary Man, Little Bird, Here Comes The Rain Again, Would I Lie to You
  (#4) Melanie Safka: Lay Down, Brand New Key, What Have They Done To My Song Ma?, The Nickel Song, Ring The Living Bell, Peace Will Come, Long Long Time, Do You Believe, Leftover Wine
  (#3) Laura Nyro: Stoney End, And When I Die, Eli's Comin', Wedding Bell Blues, Stoned Soul Picnic, Sweet Blindness, Time and Love, La La Means I Love You
  (#2) Carole King: You've Got a Friend, It's Too Late, So Far Away, Up On The Roof, A Natural Woman, I Feel The Earth Move, The Loco-Motion, One Fine Day, Jazzman, Hi-De-Ho, Been To Canaan,
  (#1) Sappho of Lesbos: to see why the first great female lyricist is still the best, so many centuries later, please click here: Sappho of Lesbos

Up-and-Coming Stars and High Honorable Mentions:

Alicia Keys: Fallin', If I Ain't Got You, Girl on Fire, A Woman's Worth, No One, Empire State of Mind (Part II), Unthinkable (I'm Ready), Diary, You Don't Know My Name
Katy Perry: Wide Awake, E.T., Firework, I Kissed A Girl, California Gurls, The One That Got Away, Teenage Dream, Roar, Part Of Me
Lady Gaga: (I Was) Born This Way, Poker Face, Paparazzi, Edge of Glory, Alejandro, You and I, Monster, Just Dance, Applause
Adele: Rumor Has It, Someone Like You, Rolling In The Deep, Set Fire To The Rain, Skyfall, Turning Tables, Chasing Pavements
Pink: Just Give Me a Reason, Try, Trouble, So What, Get the Party Started, Just Like a Pill, Most Girls, Lady Marmalade
Taylor Swift: I Knew You Were Trouble (When You Walked In), Love Story, You Belong with Me, Red, Shake It Off, Mean
Janis Ian: At Seventeen, Society's Child, Jesse, What About the Love, Fly Too High, Stars, Love Is Blind, Hair of Spun Gold
Tracy Chapman: Fast Car, Give Me One Reason, Talkin' Bout a Revolution, For My Lover, Baby Can I Hold You
Debby Harry: Heart of Glass, Rapture, One Way or Another, Atomic, Eat to the Beat, Dreaming, Call Me, The Tide Is High
Tori Amos: Silent All these Years, Crucify, Cornflake Girl, Winter, Carry, Spark, God, A Sorta Fairytale
Joan Armatrading: Love and Affection, Save Me, In These Times, Down to Zero, The Weakness in Me
Sylvia Moy: Uptight (Everything's Alright), My Cherie Amour, I Was Made to Love Her, It Takes Two, Honey Chile, Here Comes Fat Albert
Enya: Orinco Flow (Sail Away), Book of Days, Only Time, May It Be, Anywhere Is, Wild Child, O Come O Come Emmanuel
Dolly Parton: I Will Always Love You, Jolene, Coat Of Many Colors, 9 To 5, Eagle When She Flies, Romeo, Two Doors Down, Down from Dover
Janis Joplin: Piece of My Heart, Down on Me, Mercedes Benz, Move Over, Try (Just a Little Bit Harder), Cry Baby, Kozmic Blues
Madonna: This Used to be My Playground, Cherish, Justify My Love, Papa Don't Preach, Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light, Live To Tell, Take A Bow, Vogue
Sheryl Crow: All I Wanna Do, If It Makes You Happy, My Favorite Mistake, Soak Up the Sun, A Change Would Do You Good
Liz Phair: Supernova, Flower, Never Said, Whip-Smart, Why Can't I?
Amy Winehouse: Rehab, Back to Black, You Know I'm No Good, Tears Dry on Their Own, Stronger Than Me, Love is a Losing Game
K. T. Tunstall: Black Horse and the Cherry Tree

I have included Sappho because her poems were sung to the music of a lyre: hence the term "lyric" poet. Critics of her era were in awe of her ... so much so that she was called the Tenth Muse (the other nine were gods). Great poets like Lord Byron, T. S. Eliot, A. E. Housman, Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Butler Yeats either translated her poems, or wrote similar poems after her style. Sappho's erotic poetry gave our words "lesbian" and "sapphic" their modern denotations and connotations. She was the first superstar of both poetry and popular music, and the mother not only of the female songwriters above, but of male songwriters like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, and their heirs.

I gave Carole King very high marks for the long list of classic hit songs that she wrote. Laura Nyro, Melanie Safka and Janis Joplin get very high marks for their originality, vocals, soul and style. Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper and Dido are extremely talented poets. Alanis Morissette and Annie Lennox are great writers, and Lennox is one of the greatest performers of modern times. Mariah Carey has such an amazing voice that it's easy to forget that she has written some amazing songs as well. I will say that I don't think Carey's songwriting has improved with time, however. I'm not a huge fan of Joni Mitchell's singing; she reminds me of Bob Dylan, who was more of a poet than a singer. But every woman on this list has a huge following, so there are no losers, only winners. And of course other fans will rank the artists in a different order than I did, and that's as it should be.

The 25 Best Songs Written by Women (in one man's opinion, for whatever it's worth):

(25) June Carter Cash: Ring of Fire (a hit for her superstar husband, Johnny Cash)
(24) Roseanne Cash: Seven Year Ache (Roseanne is the daughter of Johnny Cash and the stepdaughter of June Carter Cash)
(23) Matraca Berg: Strawberry Wine (co-written with Gary Harrison)
(22) Katy Perry: Wide Awake
(21) Lady Gaga: Poker Face
(20) Carole King: Been To Canaan
(19) Christine McVie: As Long As You Follow
(18) Ann and Nancy Wilson: Dog And Butterfly
(17) Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi (They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot)
(16) Melanie Safka: Lay Down (Candle in the Rain)
(15) Adele: Someone Like You, Rolling in the Deep, Set Fire to the Rain, Rumor Has It (take your pick)
(14) Alanis Morissette: Uninvited
(13) Cyndi Lauper: Time After Time
(12) Fiona Apple: Criminal
(11) Patti Smith: Because the Night (co-written with Bruce Springsteen)
(10) Dido: Thank You, White Flag (tie)
  (9) Martina McBride: Independence Day
  (8) Joan Baez: Diamonds and Rust (rumored to have been written for Bob Dylan)
  (7) Stevie Nicks: Landslide
  (6) Annie Lennox: Why
  (5) Sarah McLachlan: Angel
  (4) Janice Ian: At Seventeen
  (3) Billie Holiday: God Bless the Child
       Laura Nyro: Stoney End
  (2) Joan Armatrading: Love and Affection
  (1) Carly Simon: That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be (We'll Marry)

Honorable Mention:

Carole King: It's Too Late, You've Got a Friend, So Far Away, I Feel the Earth Move
Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now, Woodstock
Tina Turner: Nutbush City Limits
Madonna: Like a Prayer, This Used To Be My Playground
Sade: The Sweetest Taboo
Tracy Chapman: Fast Car
Dolly Parton: I Will Always Love You, Jolene
Grace Slick: Somebody To Love, White Rabbit
Valerie Simpson (with Nick Ashford): Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, I’m Every Woman
Chrissie Hynde: Brass in Pocket
Natalie Merchant: Carnival
Mariah Carey: Vision of Love, Love Takes Time, Someday
Melissa Etheridge: Come to My Window
Aretha Franklin: Think (Freedom), Call Me, Rock Steady, Who's Zoomin' Who
Helen Reddy: I Am Woman

Grammy Songs of the Year Written By Female Songwriters

Carole King "You've Got a Friend" (1972)
Barbara Streisand "Evergreen" (1978) with Paul Williams and Joe Brooks
Donna Weiss "Bette Davis Eyes" (1982) with Jackie DeShannon
Carole Bayer Sager "That's What Friends Are For" (1987) with Burt Bacharach
Cynthia Weil "Somewhere Out There" (1988) with James Horner and Barry Mann
Julie Gold "From a Distance" (1989)
Alicia Keys "Fallin'" (2002)
Emily Robinson "Not Ready to Make Nice" (2007) with Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Dan Wilson
Amy Winehouse "Rehab" (2008)
Beyonce Knowles "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" (2010) with three other songwriters
Hillary Scott "Need You Now" (2011) with three other songwriters
Adele Adkins "Rolling in the Deep" (2012) with Paul Epworth
Lorde "Royals" (2014) with Joel Little
Amy Wadge "Thinking Out Loud" (2016) with Ed Sheeran

Related pages: Best Singers of All Time, Best Singer-Songwriters, Best Female Singer/Songwriters, Best Songs of All Time, Best Sad Songs, Best Protest Songs and Poems, Rock Jukebox: the Poetry of Rock Lyrics, Best Female Poets, Best Sappho Translations, Best Metaphors and Similes, The Worst Song Lyrics of All Time

Emmylou Harris
Boulder to Birmingham
written and performed by Emmylou Harris



"Boulder to Birmingham" was written by Emmylou Harris to mourn the death of Gram Parsons, who had been so impressed with Harris that he had asked to tour with his band The Fallen Angels and had worked on a studio album, Grievous Angel, with her. Harris and her work have been important to country and country-rock music. She was one of the first female country singer-songwriters with crossover appeal, and she has won twelve Grammys to date. Her song "Darlin' Kate," written for her good friend Kate McGarrigle, is another heartfelt, beautiful song. Other songs written or co-written by Harris include "The Road," "Goodnight Old World," "Red Dirt Girl," "Belle Star," "Timberline," "White Line" and "Heartbreak Hill."

Janis Joplin
Down On Me
traditional folk song
vocal arrangement and altered lyrics by Janis Joplin



Janis Joplin took the traditional 1930s folk song "Down On Me," rearranged the music and altered the lyrics, giving it a totally new "feel."

Janis Joplin
Piece Of My Heart
written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns
vocal arrangement by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company



"Piece of My Heart" was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns and originally recorded by Aretha Franklin's older sister Erma Franklin in 1967. The song came to greater mainstream attention when Big Brother and the Holding Company covered the song in 1968, featuring Janis Joplin's gritty vocals. Erma Franklin said in an interview that when she first heard Joplin's version on the radio, she didn't recognize it because of the vocal arrangement. Noted cultural writer Ellen Willis wrote of the difference: "When Franklin sings it, it is a challenge: no matter what you do to me, I will not let you destroy my ability to be human, to love. Joplin seems rather to be saying, surely if I keep taking this, if I keep setting an example of love and forgiveness, surely he has to understand, change, give me back what I have given". In such a way, Joplin used blues conventions not to transcend pain, but "to scream it out of existence."

Heart
Straight On
music and lyrics by Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson



Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart comprise a blockbuster songwriting team. "Straight On" (above) is a hard-charging rock song. But "Dog and Butterfly" (below) is one of the most tender and whimsical songs ever to hit the charts. And of course it doesn't hurt that Nancy Wilson is a stunningly good vocalist in almost any mode.

Heart
Dog And Butterfly
music and lyrics by Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson



Annie Lennox
Walking On Broken Glass



Annie Lennox (born 25 December 1954) is a Scottish recording artist and one half of the duo Eurythmics. Lennox penned some of the band's best-known tracks, including "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and "Here Comes the Rain Again." In the 1990s, Lennox embarked on a solo career beginning with her debut album Diva (1992), which produced several hit singles including "Why" and "Walking on Broken Glass." She is the recipient of eight BRIT Awards, more than any other female artist. In 2004, she won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Into the West", written for the soundtrack to the feature film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In addition to her career as a musician, Lennox is also a political and social activist, notable for raising money and awareness for HIV charities in Africa. She also objected to the unauthorized use of the 1999 Eurythmics song "I Saved the World Today" in an election broadcast for Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Known as a pop culture icon for her distinctive contralto vocals and visual performances, Lennox has been named "The Greatest White Soul Singer Alive" by VH1 and one of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone. She has earned the distinction of "most successful female British artist in UK music history." Including her work within Eurythmics, Lennox is one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 80 million records worldwide.

Enya
Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)



Enya (born Eithne Patricia Ní Bhraonáin on 17 May 1961), is an Irish singer, instrumentalist and composer. The media sometimes refer to her by the Anglicized name, Enya Brennan. She began her musical career in 1980, when she briefly joined her family band Clannad, before leaving to perform solo. She gained wider recognition for her music in the 1986 BBC series The Celts. Shortly afterwards, her 1988 album Watermark propelled her to further international fame and she became known for her unique sound, characterized by voice-layering, folk melodies, synthesised backdrops and ethereal reverberations. Her atmospheric vocals on the song below are the best I've heard in my 52 years on this planet. 

Enya
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
(a traditional Christmas carol sung by Enya)



Sade
The Sweetest Taboo



Helen Folasade Adu (born 16 January 1959), better known as Sade, is a British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer. Sade was born in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. Her middle name, Folasade, means "honor confers your crown."  When Sade was 11, she moved to live at Holland-on-Sea with her mother, and after completing school at 18 she moved to London and studied at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. While at college, she joined a soul band, Pride, in which she sang backing vocals. Her solo performances of the song "Smooth Operator" attracted the attention of record companies and in 1983, she signed a solo deal with Epic Records, taking three members of the band with her. Sade and her band produced the first of a string of hit albums, the debut album Diamond Life, in 1984, and have subsequently sold over 50 million albums. She is the most successful solo female artist in British history.

Sade
No Ordinary Love



Sade
Your Love Is King



Fiona Apple
Criminal



Fiona Apple McAfee Maggart (born September 13, 1977) is an American singer-songwriter. Born in New York City, Apple is the daughter of singer Diane McAfee and actor Brandon Maggart. Apple was introduced to the music industry in 1994 when she gave a demo tape to a friend who was the babysitter of music publicist Kathryn Schenker. Schenker then passed the tape along to Sony Music executive Andy Slater. Apple's contralto voice, piano skills and lyrics captured his attention, and Slater signed her to a record deal. In 1996, Apple's debut album, Tidal, received a Grammy. The album sold 2.7 million copies and was certified three times platinum in the U.S. "Criminal", the third single, became a hit and the song reached the top forty on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song's controversial Mark Romanek-directed music video — in which a scantily-clad Apple appeared in a '70s-era tract house — played on MTV. Apple later said: "I decided if I was going to be exploited, then I would do the exploiting myself."

Melanie
Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)



Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk (born February 3, 1947) is an American singer-songwriter. Usually known professionally as Melanie, she is best known for her hits "Brand New Key" and "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)." Melanie made her first public appearance at age four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire. She was a student at New York's American Academy of Dramatic Arts when she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and signed her first recording contract. Her debut album received rave reviews. In 1969, Melanie had a hit in the Netherlands with "Beautiful People" before performing at Woodstock. The inspiration for her signature song, "Lay Down," apparently arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set. "Lay Down" peaked at #6 on the Billboard singles chart and achieved worldwide success. Later hits included "Peace Will Come (According To Plan)" and a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday." In 1971 Melanie formed her own label, Neighborhood Records and had her biggest American hit: the number one smash "Brand New Key" (often called "The Roller Skate Song"). "Brand New Key" sold over three million copies worldwide and was featured in the 1997 movie "Boogie Nights." When first released, "Brand New Key" was banned by some radio stations because of possible sexual innuendo in the lyrics: "I got a brand new pair of roller skates, / You got a brand new key. / I think that we should get together and try them out, to see..." The follow-up single to "Brand New Key" was "Ring the Living Bell" and it made Melanie the first female performer to have three concurrent Top 40 hits. She was awarded Billboard's #1 Top Female Vocalist for 1972.

Melanie
Brand New Key



Melanie
Look What They Done To My Song, Ma



Melanie
Stop! I Don't Wanna Hear It Anymore



Christine McVie
Songbird



Christine McVie (born Christine Anne Perfect, 12 July 1943, near Greenodd, Cumbria) is an English rock singer, keyboardist, and songwriter. Her primary fame came as a member of the British/American rock band Fleetwood Mac, although she has also released three solo albums. After marrying Fleetwood Mac bass guitarist John McVie, she joined the band in 1970. She quickly became an essential member of the group and the author of some of its finest songs, a position she would continue to hold for nearly 25 years. In 1974, the band moved to the US to make a fresh start and within a year Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the group. Their first album together, 1975's Fleetwood Mac, had several hit songs, including McVie's "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me." It was "Over My Head" which first put Fleetwood Mac on American radio and in Billboard's Top 20. In 1976, McVie began an affair with the band's lighting director, which inspired her to write "You Make Loving Fun," a top-10 hit on Rumours, one of the best-selling albums of all-time. Her biggest hit was "Don't Stop", which climbed all the way to  number 3. The Rumours tour also included Christine's "Songbird," a ballad played as the encore of many Fleetwood Mac concerts.

Stevie Nicks
Landslide



Stevie Nicks, like Christine McVie a member of Fleetwood Mac, said that she wrote this song while she was contemplating going back to school or continuing her relationship with Fleetwood Mac guitarist/singer/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham. Buckingham and Nicks had been dropped by Polydor Records and she and Buckingham were not getting along. She wrote the song while visiting Aspen, Colorado sitting in someone's living room and "looking out at the Rocky Mountains pondering the avalanche of everything that had come crashing down on us ... at that moment, my life truly felt like a landslide in many ways.

Stevie Nicks
Go Your Own Way
written by Lindsey Buckingham
(performed by Fleetwood Mac)



Buckingham wrote this song for (or directed it at) Stevie Nicks, after their romantic relationship ended. The song describes their breakup, with the most obvious line being, "Packing up, shacking up is all you want to do." Nicks insisted she never shacked up with anyone when they were together, and wanted Buckingham to remove or change the line, but he refused.

Stevie Nicks
Gold Dust Woman



When asked about the song in an interview with Courtney Love for Spin in October, 1997, Nicks said: “You know what, Courtney? I don't really know what ‘Gold Dust Woman’ is about. I know there was cocaine there and that I fancied it gold dust, somehow. I'm going to have to go back to my journals and see if I can pull something out about ‘Gold Dust Woman.’ Because I don't really know. It's weird that I'm not quite sure. It can't be all about cocaine.”

Sinéad O'Connor
Nothing Compares 2 U
written by Prince



Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor (born 8 December 1966) is an Irish singer-songwriter. She rose to fame in the late 1980s with her debut album The Lion and the Cobra and achieved worldwide success in 1990 with a cover of the song "Nothing Compares 2 U." Since then, she has regularly courted controversy with her outspokenness, shorn head, and views on religion, women's rights, war and her own sexuality, while still maintaining a singing career. Her body of work includes a number of collaborations with other artists and appearances at charity fundraising concerts, in addition to her own solo albums.

Patti Smith
Because The Night



Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith (born December 30, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses. Called the "Godmother of Punk," her work was a fusion of rock and poetry. Smith's most widely known song is "Because the Night", which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen and reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1978. In 2007 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Born Patricia Lee Smith, she spent was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. She had a strong religious upbringing and a Bible education, but left organized religion as a teenager because she felt it was too confining; much later, she wrote the line "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine" in her cover version of Them's "Gloria."

June Carter Cash
Ring of Fire



June Valerie Carter Cash (June 23, 1929 – May 15, 2003) was a singer, dancer, songwriter, actress, comedienne and author who was a member of the Carter Family and the second wife of singer Johnny Cash. She played the guitar, banjo, harmonica, and autoharp and acted in several films and television shows. "Ring of Fire" is a country music song co-written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore. Some sources claim that June Carter had seen the phrase, "Love is like a burning ring of fire," underlined in one of her uncle A. P. Carter's Elizabethan books of poetry. The song was originally recorded by June's sister, Anita Carter as "(Love's) Ring of Fire". After hearing Anita's version, Cash claimed he had a dream in which he heard the song accompanied by "Mexican horns." Cash allowed some time for Anita's song to catch on, stating: "I'll give you about five or six more months, and if you don't hit with it, I'm gonna record it the way I feel it." When the song failed to become a major hit for her, Cash recorded the song with mariachi-style horns. It became the biggest hit of his career, staying at number one on the charts for seven weeks. It's ironic that Johnny Cash is best known for two songs: "I Walk the Line" (in which he promised to be faithful to his first wife) and "Ring of Fire" (a song penned by his mistress).

Cyndi Lauper
Time After Time

Cynthia Ann Stephanie "Cyndi" Lauper (born June 22, 1953) is an American singer, songwriter and actress. She achieved success in the mid-1980s with the release of the album She's So Unusual and became the first female singer to have four top-five singles from one album. Lauper has released 11 albums and over 40 singles, and has sold more than 30 million records worldwide. Lauper was born and raised in New York City. At age twelve, she learned to play an acoustic guitar, which her sister had given her, and started to write her own lyrics. At age seventeen, she left home, to study art. In 1978, Lauper met saxophone player John Turi and formed a band called Blue Angel. A few demos were recorded and the tape found its way to Steve Massarsky, who said the tape was horrible, but that he was attracted to Lauper's voice.  Music critics who saw Lauper perform with Blue Angel thought she had star potential because she had a wide singing range (four octaves), perfect pitch, and a unique vocal style. In 1981, Lauper met David Wolff, who took over as her manager and signed her with Portrait Records. Wolff had been working with a band called Arc Angel. In 1983, Lauper's album She's So Unusual was released and became a worldwide hit.  Lauper became popular with teenagers and critics, in part due to her hybrid punk image. The album's second single was the ballad "Time After Time," which Lauper co-wrote with Rob Hyman when her producer suggested that the album could use one more song. The record label did not have much faith in Lauper as a songwriter, but "Time After Time" hit #1 on both Billboard's Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, and the song has been covered by more than 100 artists.

Carly Simon
That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be (We'll Marry)

Carly Simon was born in New York City. Her father, of Jewish descent, was Richard L. Simon (co-founder of Simon & Schuster), a pianist who often played Chopin and Beethoven at home. Her mother was Andrea Louise Simon (née Heinemann), a civil rights activist and singer of black and German descent. Her solo music career began in 1971, with the self-titled album Carly Simon on Elektra Records. The album contained her breakthrough top-ten hit "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be." It was followed quickly by a second album, Anticipation. The title song from that album, written about a romance between Simon and Cat Stevens, was a significant hit, reaching #3 at Easy Listening radio and #13 on Billboard's Hot 100. The next single release - also reportedly written about Stevens - was "Legend In Your Own Time" which failed to make much of an impact on the charts. After their brief liaison during 1970–1971 ended amicably, Stevens wrote his song "Sweet Scarlet" about Simon, who also had highly publicized relationships with Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, Kris Kristofferson, and James Taylor during this period. In 1973 Simon scored the biggest success of her career with the classic global smash "You're So Vain." It hit #1 on the U.S. Pop and Adult Contemporary charts and sold over a million copies in the United States alone. It was one of the decade's biggest hits and propelled Simon's breakthrough album No Secrets to #1 on the U.S. album charts, where it stayed for six consecutive weeks. "You're So Vain" received Grammy Award nominations for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. The subject of the song itself has become one of the biggest enigmas in popular music, as this track also carries one of the most famous lyrics: "You're so vain/I bet you think this song is about you." Simon has never publicly admitted who the song is about. She hinted that it could be a composite of several people, and for many people the most likely "suspects" have always been Beatty or Jagger (who sings backup vocals on the recording). Simon has given vague hints over the decades to a variety of talk shows and publications, saying that riddles wouldn't be interesting if everyone knew the answers to them. In 2003 she auctioned off the information to the winner of a charity function, with the condition that the winner (television executive Dick Ebersol) not reveal the answer.

Dido
Thank You



Dido, nee Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong (born 25 December 1971), is an English singer-songwriter. Following the sampling of her single "Thank You" on Eminem's 2000 hit "Stan," Dido shot to worldwide success with her debut album, No Angel (1999). The album sold in excess of 21 million copies worldwide, and won several awards; including the MTV Europe Music Award for Best New Act, two NRJ Awards for Best New Act and Best Album, and two BRIT Awards for Best British Female and Best Album. Her following album, Life for Rent (2003), continued her mainstream success with the help of popular singles "White Flag" and "Life for Rent." The album went on to sell around 12 million copies worldwide and saw her receive more accolades; including the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter of the Year for "White Flag", two further BRIT and NRJ Awards, as well as a Grammy Award nomination. Her third and latest studio album, Safe Trip Home (2008), received critical praise to help maintain her success. Dido has been ranked #98 of Billboard 200 Artists Music Chart based on the success of her music in the first decade of the 21st century. She has sold over 6 million albums in United States, and 32 million albums worldwide, establishing herself as one of the best-selling artists of her time.

Dido
White Flag



Dido
Here With Me



Joan Baez
Diamonds And Rust



Joan Baez is one of the foremost American folksingers. She writes much of her own material although some of her best-known songs, such as "The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down" were written and first performed by other artists. Among the songs she wrote and performed herself, my favorite song by far is "Diamonds and Rust," a song that has been said to be about Bob Dylan.

Janis Ian
At Seventeen



Janis Eddy Fink (aka Janis Ian) was born to a Jewish family in New York City on April 7, 1951. Her parents ran a summer camp in upstate New York and during the Cold War era were frequently under government surveillance because of their left-wing politics. Young Janis Fink admired the work of folk pioneers like Joan Baez and Odetta. At the age of twelve she wrote her first song, "Hair of Spun Gold," which appeared on her debut album. At age thirteen, she legally changed her name to Janis Ian, using her brother Eric's middle name as her new last name. Also at age thirteen, Ian wrote and sang her first hit single, "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)," about an interracial romance forbidden by a girl's mother and frowned upon by her peers and teachers: the girl ultimately decides to end the relationship, citing the societal norms of the day. "Society's Child" finally became a national hit on its third release, after Leonard Bernstein featured it in a TV special titled Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The song's message was taboo for some radio stations, which refused to air it. In her autobiography Society's Child, Ian recalls receiving hate mail and death threats as a response to the song, and mentions a radio station in Atlanta being burned down for playing it. And yet "Society's Child" reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. Her album was also a hit, reaching #12. In 2001, "Society's Child" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings considered timeless and important to music history. Her most successful single in the United States was "At Seventeen", which was acclaimed by critics and record buyers alike: it charted at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. "At Seventeen" also won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance

Janis Ian
Society's Child



Carole King
Been To Canaan



Carol Klein (she added the "e" to her first name) was born in 1942 to a Jewish household in Manhattan, New York. She grew up in Brooklyn and started out playing piano, then moved on to singing, forming a vocal quartet called the Co-Sines at James Madison High School. As a teenager who dreamed of having a successful entertainment career, she decided to give herself a new last name, picking "King" from the telephone book. She attended Queens College, where she was a classmate and girlfriend of Neil Sedaka and inspired Sedaka's first hit, "Oh! Carol." She responded with "Oh! Neil" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow." At Queens College, she also befriended Paul Simon and Gerry Goffin.  King and Goffin formed a songwriting partnership; their first big hit was "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," recorded by The Shirelles, which topped the American charts in 1961, becoming the first #1 hit by a girl group. Goffin and King married in 1960 and went on to write a number of chart-topping hits together. They divorced in 1968 and King went on to write and record chart-topping songs like "It's Too Late" (#1), I Feel the Earth Move", "Jazzman"  and "So Far Away." Counting song of hers recorded herself by other artists, King has had over 100 songs on the Billboard charts, and seven number one songs.

Joni Mitchell
Both Sides Now
performed by Judy Collins



Joni Mitchell is one of America's foremost singer-songwriters and folk singers. Her best-known compositions include "Woodstock," "Both Sides Now," "Help Me," "Free Man in Paris" and "Big Yellow Taxi (They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot)."

Angel
Sarah McLachlan

"Angel" is a song by Sarah McLachlan that originally appeared on her 1997 album Surfacing. As McLachlan explained on VH1 Storytellers, the song is about the Smashing Pumpkins touring keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin, who overdosed on heroin and died in 1996. McLachlan explained that there's nothing constant when you are on the road; everything becomes the same. McLachlan said that writing "Angel" was easy, "a real joyous occasion." It was inspired by articles that she read in Rolling Stone about musicians turning to heroin to cope with the pressures of the music industry and subsequently overdosing. She said that she identified with the feelings that might lead someone to use heroin: "I've been in that place where you're so fucked up and you're so lost that you don't know who you are anymore, and you're miserable—and here's this escape route. I've never done heroin, but I've done plenty of other things to escape." She said that the song is about "trying not to take responsibility for other people's shit and trying to love yourself at the same time."

Martina McBride
Independence Day
written by Gretchen Peters
performed by Martina McBride



"Independence Day" is a song performed by country singer Martina McBride, originally included on her 1993 album The Way That I Am. Released as a single in 1994, the song peaked at #12. Gretchen Peters wrote the song, and later recorded it herself. It was first offered to Reba McEntire, who turned it down. The lyrics tell a story of a woman's response to domestic abuse, seen from the point of view of her daughter. The song's music video was somewhat controversial at the time of its release, because of its graphic depiction of domestic violence. The ending of the video is particularly intense, as it shows the young girl's home burning to the ground, implying that the mother had been responsible for the fire, and that the mother and the abusive father both perished in the fire. The girl is at Fourth of July parade when she gets a feeling that something is wrong and returns home. The home is engulfed in flames by the time she gets back, and she is shown towards the end of the video crying in the front seat of a police cruiser. The lyrics have a double meaning in that the woman in the story is finally gaining her "freedom" from her abusive husband. Thus, it is her "Independence Day." The title also refers to the fact that the events noted in the song happened on the United States' Independence Day. Martina McBride (born Martina Mariea Schiff on July 29, 1966, in Sharon, Kansas) is an American country music singer and songwriter. McBride has been called the "Céline Dion of Country Music" for her big-voiced ballads and soprano range.

Strawberry Wine
written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison
performed by Deana Carter



"Strawberry Wine" is the title of a song written by Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison, and recorded by American country artist Deana Carter. The song tells the story of co-writer Berg's own coming of age as a teenager outside of Luck, Wisconsin, she recalled: "We used to go to my grandparents' dairy farm in the summer. My aunt, who's six months younger than me, and I would try to score some wine. And I met this boy..." Berg shopped the song to record labels around Nashville, but they passed, considering it overly long and controversial, and not memorable enough. Deana Carter heard Berg perform the song at a showcase and then recorded it for her debut album, Did I Shave My Legs for This "Strawberry Wine" debuted at #70 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks for the chart week of August 17, 1996.  The song reached #1 on the chart in November 1996, holding the position for two weeks. "Strawberry Wine" won Song of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards in 1997 and was voted Song of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International and the Nashville Music Awards. That year, the song was also nominated for three additional awards; Grammy Award for Best Country Song, Academy of Country Music Awards Best Country Song nominee, and Country Music Radio Awards for Song of The Year.

Madonna
This Used To Be My Playground



Madonna has written a number of chart-topping songs, including "Vogue," "Take A Bow," "Papa Don't Preach," "Ray Of Light," "Lucky Star" and "This Used To Be My Playground." 

Female singer-songwriters of note, in alphabetical order:

Adele
Tori Amos
Fiona Apple
India Arie
Joan Armatrading
Ólöf Arnalds
Erykah Badu
Joan Baez
Selda Bağcan
Matraca Berg
Bjork
Kate Bush
Camille
Mariah Carey
June Carter Cash
Roseanne Cash
Tracy Chapman
Céu (Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças)
Patsy Cline
Paula Cole
Shawn Colvin
Sheryl Crow
Dido
Ani DiFranco
Iris Dement
Sandy Denny
Sa Dingding
Holly Dunn
Enya
Melissa Ethridge
Dorothy Fields
Roberta Flack
Aretha Franklin
Lady Gaga
Debbie Gibson
Patty Griffin
Meklit Hadero
Emmylou Harris
Debbie Harry (of Blondie)
P. J. Harvey
Lauryn Hill
Billie Holiday
Chrissie Hynde (of the Pretenders)
Janis Ian
Joan Jett
Jewel
Norah Jones
Rickie Lee Jones
Janis Joplin
Annie Lennox
Alicia Keys
Alison Krauss
Carole King
Holly Knight
Alison Krauss
Miranda Lambert
K. D. Lang
Cyndi Lauper
Peggy Lee
April Levigne
Abbey Lincoln
Lisa Loeb
Lorde
Courtney Love
Loretta Lynn
Kirsty MacColl
Madonna
Aimee Mann
Mariza
Laura Marling
Martina McBride
Rose Marie McCoy
Kate and Anna McGarrigle
Sarah McLachlan
Reba McEntire
Christine McVie
Sylvia Moy
Natalie Merchant
Joni Mitchell
Alanis Morissette
Nena
Stevie Nicks
Nico (Christa Paffgen)
Laura Nyro
Sinéad O'Connor
Odetta
Yoko Ono
Beth Orton
Dolly Parton
Katy Perry
Linda Perry
Gretchen Peters
Pink (aka P!nk)
Liz Phair
Edith Piaf
Cat Power
Dory Previn
Bonnie Raitt
Susheela Raman
Helen Reddy
Jeanie C. Riley
Sade
Melanie Safka
Carol Bayer Sager
Sappho of Lesbos
Jill Scott
Jean Shephard
Judee Sill
Valerie Simpson
Carly Simon
Nina Simone
Siouxsie Sioux
Patti Smith
Phoebe Snow
Regina Spektor
Gwen Stefani
Barbara Streisand
Taylor Swift
Rokia Traoré
K. T. Tunstall
Shania Twain
Suzanne Vega
Diane Warren
Gillian Welch
Edna White
Dar Williams
Lucinda Williams
Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson (sisters and members of Heart)
Cassandra Wilson
Amy Winehouse
Wunmi
Tammy Wynette

Related pages: Best Singers of All Time, Best Singer-Songwriters, Best Female Singer/Songwriters, Best Songs of All Time, Best Sad Songs, Best Protest Songs and Poems, Rock Jukebox: the Poetry of Rock Lyrics, Best Female Poets, Best Sappho Translations, Best Metaphors and Similes, The Worst Song Lyrics of All Time

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