With this “Women Who Rock“ post becoming a weekly thing, I decided that I wanted to honor Black History Month by focusing on a different Black female music artist each week. The problem is that there are only four Fridays in February and I just could not narrow it down to only four ladies. (Obviously, I’ve got the whole year to write about talented women of any race and I will but I still need to choose some for this month.)
So, I sent out a request to my friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook, asking for suggestions. Should I write about the classics, the women who have made history and influenced artists who came along after them? Should I take the opportunity to shine the spotlight on those who are on that uphill climb to stardom and introduce readers to someone they may have never heard of before? Should I do a little of both? I’m going to go with a little of both.
Let’s start with a roundup. Maybe we’ll call it…hmmm…let’s take the alliterative approach and call them the Fabulous Five. (Hey, that could even be a recurring theme. The Fabulous Five of [insert genre, era, country, etc. here]!) Enough chit-chat, here are my Fabulous Five Black Female Music Artists.
1) Aretha Franklin – I had to start with the Queen of Soul because, well, she’s the QUEEN of Soul. Oh, and we also happen to share a birthday, along with Ms. Gloria Steinem. One of my mom’s all-time favorite songs is “Respect ” and I grew up hearing both Aretha’s version and Otis Redding’s version. There’s a good reason why her version is the more famous one. It just sounds so much more powerful and meaningful coming from her. (No disrespect to Mr. Redding, of course, because anyone who knows me knows that I looooove me some Otis.)
2) Etta James – Raise your hand if you danced to ”At Last” at your wedding or even someone else’s. If I could only use one word to sum up that song, it would be “iconic.” And if I had to describe it to someone who had never heard it, I would say to them, “You know that moment when you’re with someone you love and you’re in each other’s arms and you feel like you can just sink into them and everything and everyone else will just cease to exist because it’s only you and him/her left in the world? Yeah. It’s like that.”
3) Whitney Houston – In spite of her personal struggles, the news of Ms. Houston’s passing last year was a major shock. She’d just finished a movie role, her first in many years, and was rumored to be back in the studio. But her comeback never happened. And if anyone deserved a comeback, it was Whitney. It’s difficult to choose which song she’s most known for because there were just so many. Even her performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” is one of the most famous. Lip-synced or not, she still sang it and it was flawless. But her rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” is probably my personal favorite and an absolute tour de force.
4) Mariah Carey – True story, if my son had been a girl, his name would have been Mariah. It was a family name on his dad’s side so we chose it for that reason but I certainly had no problem with my child sharing a name with the songstress. I remember being blown away the first time I saw the video for “Vision of Love” on VH1 back when VH1 and MTV used to play music videos. That voice! That range! The last time I’d heard someone hit notes that high was Minnie Riperton (Maya Rudolph’s mom, BTW) in “Lovin’ You.” It was just a given that this young woman was going to be star. She was, and still is, amazing.
5) Tina Turner – I was about 13 years old when I became a Tina Turner fan. It was 1984 and her album, Private Dancer, was all over the radio, especially the single “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” which spent a few weeks in the numero uno position. A couple of years later, her autobiography I, Tina came out and I snagged my mom’s copy. After reading her story, from her days as Anna Mae Bullock up to her turbulent relationship with her abusive then-husband and partner, Ike Turner, I was in awe of not only her talent but her strength. And her legs. Good lordy, what I wouldn’t do to have her legs.
So those are my Fabulous Five and, believe me, I could have easily gone on to make a Top Ten list. Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Janet Jackson…the list goes on and on. What about you, what would your Fab Five list look like? And who would you like to see featured in future posts?