The most influential female music artists

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are seven of the most influential female artists in the music industry.

Chris Charpentier, Staff Writer

According to a study conducted by Stacy L. Smith for the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, females continue to be underrepresented in the music industry, only making up 22.4% of artists and 2% of producers. However, women still hold power and influence in the music industry, in all genres. To highlight this, here are seven female artists that made a mark upon the music industry.


The “Godmother of Rock n’ Roll,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe shaped the genre in the 1930s and ‘40s. Tharpe created gospel music that mixed together spiritual lyrics and an electric guitar to appeal to the “rhythm-and-blues” movement at the time. This mixture of styles in her music was instrumental to the rise of rock and roll music going into the 1950s. Her music served as a direct influence for artists such as Elvis Presely, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and many more iconic rock and roll artists going forward.


King was an American singer-songwriter who helped to co-write or completely write 118 pop hits that made it into the Billboard Hot 100. Her solo career is defined by 25 albums, with her most popular one, “Tapestry,” holding the record for most weeks at No. 1 by a female artist for more than 20 years. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in May 2018, received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song and won four Grammy awards.


Aretha Franklin, “The Queen of Soul,” is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, with global sales over 75 million records. Franklin is frequently credited as one of the best singers of all time, citing hits like “Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” songs of which were also anthems for the civil rights movement at the time. She is the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was also bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Nina Simone was undoubtedly one of the most influential artists when it came to 20th century jazz. During her heyday in the 1960s, Simone’s music was outspoken in its commentary on the civil rights movement. Her mix of jazz, blues, cabaret and soul music broke norms and changed those styles of music going forward. She received a Grammy Hall of Fame award and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Starting out in one of the most successful girl groups of all time, Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé kickstarted her solo career with No. 1 singles, “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy.” Her third album, “I Am…Sasha Fierce,” earned a record-setting six Grammy Awards in 2010. The latter half of her career saw visual and experimental albums like “Beyoncé” and “Lemonade,” the latter of which was the highest selling album of 2016 as well as her most acclaimed album. She continues to be a cultural icon, both in her music career, collaborations with other artists and in acting.


Composing over 3,000 songs in her career, Parton created hits such as “I Will Always Love You,” “Jolene” and “9 to 5.” She’s had 25 songs reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. She is one of the most honored female country performers of all time, with 11 Grammy awards, a Living Legend Medal by the Library of Congress and an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.


Since her early career in the 1980s, Madonna pushed boundaries within popular music, tackling social, political, sexual and religious themes of popular culture, leading to both controversy and acclaim. She is often referred to as the “Queen of Pop” due to her constant reinvention of her production, songwriting and visual presentation through music videos.


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