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Females Rule the Decades

Written by Hannah Lee

Did you know that the month of May was named after Maia, the Greek Goddess of fertility, who is also identified as Bona Dea? Maia also happens to be the Goddess of Spring and growth. This month is considered to be Women’s Health month, and starting off with Mother’s day, let us celebrate women in the right way!

Channel your inner femme fatale with these ten revolutionary female artists:

1. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN (1098-1179) 

Hildegard of Bingen’s, "Ae", is considered one of fifty pieces that changed the course of music history. Her music is regarded as revolutionary amongst the Middle Ages. She was a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. In short words, she is the real-life Superwoman. She is most famous for writing sacred music and about natural history and medicine.  Although few women were respected at that time, Hildegard was the woman who was consulted and advised by bishops, popes, and kings. Hildegard influences non-classical artists as well, such as pop artist, Grimes.

Recommended Song: “Ordo Virtutum"

2. BILLIE HOLIDAY (1915-1959)


Many jazz artists are influenced by Billie Holiday. Holiday’s songs have changed music, inside and outside of the jazz genre. What made her songs so compelling was the hypnotizing, slow style she brought to soul music. Holiday had the courage of a lion, which showed through in her most notable song “Strange Fruit,” which spoke on the lynchings in the South. Her music was controversial with the civil rights movement and exposed her dark heart and a dark time for her people. She, as a musician, showed other artists to not be afraid of the dark parts of oneself. As an African-American female vocalist, the amount of fame and respect she received was revolutionary. 

Recommended Song: “Strange Fruit"

3. CAROLE KING (1942-)


Carole King was one of the most defining musical figures in the ‘60s. Many songwriters of the ‘70s owe it to King for paving the way for female songwriters. King is best known for her song, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", which she wrote in 1960 for The Shirelles, an African-American girl group. This song became the group's No. 1 hit. In 1971, King came out with her album Tapestry, which really broke her out as a performing star.

Recommended Song:  “Tapestry”

4. ARETHA FRANKLIN (1942-2018)

The late Aretha Franklin has an immediately recognizable voice because of how completely unique it is. She is considered to be the Queen of Soul. There was no one who sang like her, with a voice of sophistication and passion. She created her own genre; mixed with gospel, jazz, the blues, pop, and R&B. She overtly played a part in the “black resistance.” Her song “Respect” made her a female symbol of black and feminist power.

Recommended Song: “Amazing Grace”

5. DEBBIE HARRY (1945-)

Debbie Harry, vocalist of Blondie, truly paved the way for Punk artists and music to be appreciated by the press. In an article with The Guardian, she recalls a time when she did a radio tour and people did not want to be in the same room as her because they feared her. She was a true punk symbol at that time, but she was also a sex symbol; a sex symbol she did not want to fall under. She withstood the pressures of being a female icon such as getting plastic surgery. Much like Cher, Debbie became a style icon. She added on crazy prints and sequins to items she found in thrift stores, and she looked amazing in all of them. She is the one to thank for many fashion trends today.

Recommended Song: “End To End"

6. CHER (1946-)

Cher is an artist of many kinds: rock, disco, pop, and dance. She is commonly known as the Goddess of Pop. She especially is considered a goddess by the LGBT community. She was one of the first to bring drag to the mainstream crowd and is now considered to be a gay icon. She’s also performed in many films and shows as gay characters. She is and was revered for her exotic fashion style as well. She was one of the first female artists to really make it into the fashion industry while also having a successful career as a singer.

​Recommended Song: “Take Me Home”

7. PATTI SMITH (1946-)

Have you heard of the Godmother of Punk? Patti Smith was incredibly influential in establishing the punk genre. In fact, her song “Piss Factory” is acknowledged as the first true punk song. She is an artist who turned her love for poetry into music. In a Rock ‘N’ Roll world that was full of sex and drugs, she incorporated art and poetry. She wanted to bring into light all the great voices we’ve lost within the industry, such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. She did so by incorporating dark words of poetry into her lyrics. Patti Smith truly refined what it means to be a female rock star.

Recommended Song: “Because the Night” (This song was co-written by Bruce Springsteen)

8. MADONNA (1958-)

Madonna is named the best-selling female recording artist of all time. She is an artist who explored new music technologies and opened up the more visual side of music. She’s never stuck with one style or direction when it comes to her work. Each new album came with visuals, such as film or sidelines. Some may even say that her music inspired the electronic genre. She’s never denied controversial topics, especially when it comes to feminism. She represents an era of self-determination for female artists.

Recommended Song: “Papa Don’t Preach”

9. BEYONCÉ (1981-)

Many people consider Beyonce to be the Queen of everything. Beyonce led a movement for Black Feminists. She came out with a visual album called Lemonade, and on the front it has a southern, afro-futurist image. One of the most jarring pieces of this album is that it visualizes a world without men. She made her own dream world come to life. She used this album to build a platform for black feminists in the industry. She narrated the uniting of black women piece by piece. She fragmented the visuals by phases of this movement: Intuition, Denial, Apathy, Reformation, Forgiveness, Hope, and Redemption.

Recommended Song: “Formation”

10. ADELE (1988-)

Adele is all about the music. In 2016, Adele was asked to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, but she turned it down. She explained later that she did not want to perform at a show that’s not about the music. She quietly led a revolution by showing others that size doesn't matter when it comes to talent. Her voice has been completely separated from her appearance. She also expresses that she is not bothered by fame, and it doesn’t change her or the way she interacts with others. She tries to live as much of a normal life as she can. Her revolution is in the power of saying no and standing true to herself, even when society pushes her in a different direction. 

Recommended Song: “One and Only”

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