Essential Listening for Women’s History Month

By Lucy Hubbard

In every field, women have faced an uphill battle to be seen and heard, and they are rarely celebrated as much as their male counterparts. Music is not an exception-women have participated in every movement in musical history but are seldom regarded as highly as men. This Women’s History Month, I would like to shed light on some of the musicians who redefined the role of women in music and created groundbreaking work that will be remembered and celebrated for decades to come.

Amy Winehouse
Winehouse’s soulful R&B explores her inner emotions with songs about her substance abuse and the pain of falling in and out of love. To put it simply, I’m absolutely obsessed with her. Her voice alone is so powerful and paired with her ensemble of jazz musicians she was able to create what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest albums of all time: Back to Black.
Favorite Song: “You Know I’m No Good” from Back to Black.

Janis Joplin
An all time favorite of mine and the reason I own a red bandana, Joplin redefined the role of women in the rock genre at a time when men truly dominated it with her charisma and heart. Joplin has a powerful, raspy singing voice perfect for singing the blues. Paired with the psychedelic rock of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joplin’s songs are an exploration of rock, soul and blues. Joplin’s final album Pearl was released posthumously after her tragic death, some tracks are without vocals because Joplin had not been able to finish recording. Despite the tragedy associated with the album, Pearl remains one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
Favorite Song:“Me and Bobby McGee” from Pearl.

Joni Mitchell
Mitchell’s music captured the free and loving spirit of 1960’s Laurel Canyon with her heartfelt lyrics and unique guitar chords dubbed “Joni's weird chords.” When asked about the chords, Mitchell said "Only a woman could have discovered harmony that was never used before in the history of harmonic movement." Despite often being reduced to the male musicians she dated, Mitchell paved a way for women in rock at a time when men dominated the music scene.
Favorite Song:“In France They Kiss on Main Street” from The Hissing of Summer Lawns.

Nina Simone
Simone’s jazz ballads explore deeper emotions with her gospel-esque contralto. Dubbed “the High Priestess of Soul,” Simone never fails to create heartbreaking ballads that showcase a wide range of emotions through her powerful voice and her skillful composing. Simone’s music spans from gospel and blues to jazz, and folk with skilled lyricism.
Favorite Song:“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” from Broadway-Blues-Ballads, however as a Baltimorean I have a soft spot for her song “Baltimore” from Baltimore.

Cat Power
One of my favorite indie singers, Cat Power’s music is perfectly somber and beautiful. She pairs her soft melancholy singing voice with bluesy guitar and piano to create a catalog of indie rock songs that pull from blues, soul and indie rock.
Favorite Song: “Lived in Bars” from The Greatest.

Carly Simon
Simon is one of the greatest songwriters of the 60’s and 70’s. Her lyrics are heartfelt and I am confident that “You’re So Vain” is the greatest breakup song of all time.
Favorite Song:“You’re So Vain” from No Secrets.

Norah Jones
Jones’ music blends acoustic guitar with jazz to create an excellent jazz, pop and blues fusion-although it is her songwriting that really captures hearts. Earnest and passionate lyrics about love paired with her jazzy vocal style has created so many classics, countless couples have shared their first dance to one of her love songs.
Favorite Song:“Don’t Know Why” from Come Away With Me.

Tracy Chapman
With her unique blend of folk, blues and rock, Chapman is able to explore complex issues such as race, politics and poverty through her music. Her simplistic style compliments her knack for well written lyrics that create beautiful narratives in the span of minutes. Her song “Fast Car” tells the story of a girl living in poverty looking to love as a means to escape her situation, and it is of the most heartfelt songwriting I have ever heard.
Favorite Song:“Fast Car” from Tracy Chapman